Pittsburgh Innovation District Joins New Global Network

March 29, 2022

Pittsburgh Innovation District joins new global network to drive innovation, investment, and social inclusion in urban areas

Pittsburgh Innovation District has joined a pioneering global collaboration—The Global Network of Innovation Districts—to drive forward one of the most promising models for 21st century growth, work, and urban living.

This major initiative will give governments and investors new insights into how to support innovation districts like Pittsburgh’s as they re-energize key parts of towns and cities. Innovation districts are positioned to become engines of economic development, social inclusion and investment that can help surrounding regions.

A sustainable alternative to Silicon Valley

Districts like Pittsburgh Innovation District, based in the city’s Oakland neighborhood, represent an exciting approach in which leading-edge anchor institutions and companies cluster and connect with start-ups, business incubators, and accelerators. These innovation districts are designed as physically compact urban areas that are transit-accessible with a mix of housing, offices, and retail.

Innovation Districts provide environments that today’s leading institutions, firms, and workers crave—physical proximity, lifestyle amenities, and open greenspaces. This approach not only attracts talent-rich workers and companies, but it also creates spaces for families and children. Innovation districts are innovation communities that embrace diversity of every kind, including people. They differ from older, less sustainable models such as Silicon Valley, which tend to be suburban corridors of isolated corporate campuses, accessible only by car, with insufficient emphasis on quality of life or integrating work, housing, and recreation.

“We are honored to be part of this impressive collection of global thought leaders,” Pittsburgh Innovation District Director Mike Madden said. “Pittsburgh has some of the world’s most innovative universities, research centers, and healthcare systems. These institutions are the foundation of our future economy and are the reason the Pittsburgh Innovation District is one of the world’s most valuable locations.”

Just over 100 such districts have emerged globally so far: Pittsburgh Innovation District is among a select group of them to join this month’s launch of the Global Network. Sharing best practices and strategies is intended to help participants to leapfrog ahead with support from a team of leading researchers and practitioners from the Global Institute on Innovation Districts. The network will provide cutting-edge analysis on each district and host deep strategic sessions for the districts, enabling the Global Network to provide policy makers and investors with insights into the innovation district model.

The Global Network will explore a range of issues. These include organized responses to the pandemic and climate change, how best to leverage unique R&D strengths as a pathway to create new products and services for the market, how to drive the formation of new companies and new jobs, ambitious efforts to attract industry and investment, and how to create walkable, inclusive places. It will share different ways to organize innovation districts around, for example, governance and finance, as well as strategies for expanding employment and educational opportunities among disadvantaged populations in an equitable and inclusive manner. Participants will examine options for creating high-quality environments where diverse populations can enjoy living, working, and playing, all in a compact setting.

Launch addresses key global challenges

The launch is timely, amid sluggish global growth and overarching challenges such as recovery from COVID-19 and tackling climate change. The Global Institute, in its worldwide research, found that at the height of the crisis, at least 24 innovation districts were driving advanced R&D on vaccines and sophisticated medical devices to combat COVID-19.

Innovation districts also have a unique potential to spur productive, inclusive, and sustainable development. At a time of rising social inequality, many districts are highly focused on disadvantaged populations: many are close to low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.

A part of the Global Network’s role will be to develop fact-based communications and insights designed to impact and influence key stakeholders such as government leaders and investors.

“Innovation districts are the 21st century model of innovation and problem solving. The new Global Network is an important route to optimizing that model,” explained Julie Wagner, President of The Global Institute on Innovation Districts, which has developed the Global Network. Wagner, who has led international research in this field, drew the world’s attention to the growing impact of innovation districts by co-authoring “The Rise of Innovation Districts,” a report published in 2014 by the Brookings Institution. She also co-authored The Global Institute’s subsequent report: “The Evolution of Innovation Districts: The New Geography of Global Innovation” (2019).

About The Global Institute on Innovation Districts

The Global Institute is an independent, not for profit, international research organization, dedicated to the growth of innovation districts worldwide. It has a multi-disciplinary team of researchers and practitioners, including leaders who have worked exclusively to advance innovation districts over the past 15 years.

Pittsburgh Innovation District is on the Steering Committee of The Global Institute. Pittsburgh Innovation District has played a central role in the development of The Global Institute, providing funding and strategic guidance since the Institute was founded in 2019.

Find out more about Global Network on Innovation Districts: giid.org.