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Metro Mayor, VU Chancellor seek traction for Nashville Innovation Alliance
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Daniel Diermeier
Freddie O'Connell

VOWING TO SERVE the public interest through collaborative efforts, the Nashville Innovation Alliance has been launched to help "create economic expansion and inclusive prosperity" through collaborative efforts that improve this region's innovation and research capacity, its supply of talent, investor-borne capital, formal research, and "dedicated space and programs."

A Vanderbilt University statement posted online yesterday said Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County Mayor Freddie O'Connell and Vanderbilt University Chancellor Daniel Diermeier PhD are serving as Alliance co-chairs, in order to "bring together public, private, civic and education institutions" to embrace the work that lies ahead.

The Alliance aims to bring together public, private, civic and education institutions.

Its steering committee currently includes Elise Cambournac, CEO of the Greater Nashville Technology Council; Lindsey Cox, CEO of LaunchTN; Sam Davidson, CEO of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center; Padma Raghavan, Vanderbilt's vice provost for research and innovation; and Isaac Addae, manager, entrepreneurship and economic development, in Mayor O'Connell's office.

The university currently lists Associate Vice Chancellor for Strategy and Operations Sally Parker PhD as the Alliance's primary contact for information about the Alliance, generally, as well as for the Alliance's planned Innovation Ecosystem Forum, downtown next month.

A section of Vanderbilt's website dedicated to the Alliance declares the currently unincorporated group's overarching goal is to "build an inclusive economy that creates the next generation of homegrown talent and businesses, attracting investment in our communities to support all of Nashville."

The Alliance further explains it aims to "leverage all of Nashville's sectors, while embracing our strengths in health, mobility, music and entertainment, and fintech to build Nashville into a globally leading innovation ecosystem."

The new group lists its "Avenues of Collaboration" as including:

  • New initiatives, programs and investments
  • Land use and capital projects
  • Collaborative grants
  • Advocacy priorities
  • Talent and workforce development
  • Recruitment of growth-stage companies in targeted innovation clusters

In yesterday's statement, Mayor O'Connell thanked Diermeier for his commitment to Nashville and the Alliance, noting "We are at our best when the public and private sectors are partners in solving the key problems of our day. From that partnership, we get the best solutions to keeping Nashville affordable, solving our transportation issues and modernizing our sustainability practices so the city remains a great place to live and grow. This alliance will ensure that thought leaders have the resources they need to act on the solutions we believe in."

O'Connell added, "The Nashville Innovation Alliance has the potential to bolster our place as a hub of creative thinking and innovation. The alliance brings together key partners to support entrepreneurs, innovators and a new generation of leaders. Their work will move Nashville forward by ensuring our economy is competing in not only traditionally strong sectors, but also in modern emerging categories."

VNC understands that the Alliance steering committee and other allies aim to develop an umbrella strategic plan, through a process by which they attempt to take into account existing and emerging interests and priorities of active Alliance members and other actors in the ecosystem.

Notably, although Vanderbilt is currently leading efforts to stand-up the launch of the Greater Nashville Venture Capital Association (GNVCA), it will at some point purposefully step back into GNVCA membership ranks, to help ensure GNVCA's autonomous and ultimately self-sustaining role is firmly rooted.

In contrast, both Metro's and Vanderbilt's out-front co-leadership, institutional standing and other contributions are clearly viewed as empowering and legitimizing for the new Alliance.

Early Alliance projects are likely to include development of "an 'urban lab' model to deploy innovative solutions to address some of the city's most pressing issues." The Alliance site refers to an "Urban Innovation Initiative."

The Alliance offers perspective, explaining online, "Leading centers of innovation around the world are known for having an abundance of talent, a strong network of investors, easy access to research and dedicated space and programs for innovation. While Nashville's economy is thriving, more needs to be done in these areas to ensure new ideas and technologies can translate into societal impact and commercial success.​"

Coincidentally, VNC reported earlier this month that PitchBook analysts had observed that Nashville has grown its entrepreneurial sector, but requires greater ecosystem maturation if it is to attain global standing. Another source, StartupBlink, recently ranked a still-climbing Nashville 68th worldwide. Separately, Pitchbook also reported on Vanderbilt's alumni startups.

Diermeier explained in yesterday's release that "a robust innovation ecosystem will be critical for an urban lab model to be successful, as it involves piloting, scaling and often commercializing new technologies."

VNC research indicates that in 2022 Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center -- each of them self-governing since their separation in 2016 -- earned an aggregate of nearly $1.1BN in sponsored research funding from all sources.

During roughly the past 60 years, both Vanderbilt institutions have periodically played significant roles in venture development and in technology translation and commercialization, generally, as well as in addressing some challenges faced by Metro government and by the Greater Nashville region.

In its release yesterday, Vanderbilt says, in part, "For nearly a decade, Vanderbilt has collaborated with the mayor's office and the city to design, implement and evaluate numerous solutions aimed at addressing complex sociotechnical challenges facing the city and region. The alliance will provide additional support for those efforts and help identify new projects that are aligned with the city's priorities and with the expertise of Vanderbilt and collaborating institutions."

Since Diermeier's arrival Vanderbilt in 2020, he has -- in addition to responding the Covid-19 pandemic -- personally advocated and-or mandated numerous innovation and leadership initiatives, including the launch of the university's Summit on Modern Conflict and Emerging Threats; and, the launch of VU's Institute for National Defense and Global Security.

Notes: The Alliance has adopted a symbol that it translates as "the iconic guitar strings that are woven into the fabric of the Nashville community, we strive to amplify harmonious collaboration between talent, investment and research--the essential components that empower innovation to disrupt and transform."

Nashville, Vanderbilt and Tennessee, generally, have advanced their entrepreneurial infrastructures in waves, with one wave during the late 1990s through early Y2K Era powering formation of Tennessee Technology Development Corporation dba Launch Tennessee, Emerge Memphis, Life Science Tennessee (originally Tennessee Biotechnology Association), Nashville Technology Council, Tech2020 in Knoxville-Oak Ridge, Memphis Bioworks Foundation, Chattanooga's CoLab and other tech-oriented nonprofits.

By 2008 -- three years after pioneer Y-Combinator sprang to life -- Nashville had begun laying formal plans for what became the Nashville Entrepreneur Center. Since 2010, state government's pro-entrepreneurial efforts have been highly focused on improving the state's capital stack, and advancing regional hubs and specialized industry partners.

Between 2009 and the present, two rounds of the federal SSBCI program and one controversial round of the state's TNInvestco program proved somewhat galvanizing in the state's startup sector.

Vanderbilt-Metro communique of June 20. Alliance web presence. VNC coverage of Vanderbilt University. VNC Diermeier coverage. O'Connell LinkedIn. O'Connell Wikipedia. Diermeier Wikipedia. Diermeier LinkedIn. VNC

.last edited 1012 CDST 21 June 2024

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Tags: capital, CoLab, Company Lab, Daniel Diermeier, economic development, ecosystems, Elise Cambournac, Emerge Memphis, entrepreneurship, Freddie OConnell, government, Greater Nashville Venture Capital Association, innovation, Institute for National Defense and Glbbal Security, investors, Isaac Addae, Launch Tennessee, LaunchTN, Life Science Tennessee, LifeScienceTN, Lindsey Cox, Memphis Bioworks Foundation, Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Nashville Entrepreneur Center, Nashville Innovation Alliance, Nashville Technology Council, Padma Raghavan, PitchBook, public policy, Sally Parker, Sam Davidson, SSBCI, StartupBlink, Summit on Modern Conflict and Emerging Threats, talent, Tech2020, technology transfer, Tennessee Technology Development Corporation, TNInvestco, Urban Innovation Initiative, Urban Lab, Vanderbilt University, workforce development, Y Combinator


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