Work Begins to Create an Austin Innovation Zone

February 2, 2014 by Kate Harrington

With work on the University of Texas’ new Austin medical school and teaching hospital on the horizon, state plans to bolster the Capitol complex, and the Downtown Austin Plan completed, Mayor Lee Leffingwell has created an Innovation Zone Advisory Group to bring representatives from the university, city, state, and private industry together.

The goal of the new advisory group, which has had its first three meetings, is to create communication between UT, city stakeholders and state officials, and ultimately help guide the creation of an innovation zone in downtown Austin.

It’s the first time officials from those entities have collaborated on long-term goals, says Charlie Betts, executive director of the Downtown Austin Alliance (DAA).

The hope is that the new medical school and teaching hospital – along with the Waller Creek work – will act as a catalyst for development in the northeast part of downtown.

Officials with the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce visited Kendall Square in Cambridge, Mass., last fall to talk with executives there and learn more about how private sector and public sector collaboration has created a concentrated innovation center. The area is close to both Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.

The DAA also hosted an event last fall that brought Kendall Square executives to Austin to talk about the elements of a successful innovation zone.

“The innovation zone is a fairly new idea that grew out of Prop 1 and also a general need to revitalize the eastern side of downtown,” Leffingwell said in a Community Impact article. “We have to create the infrastructure that makes it easy and desirable for people to develop there.”

What are your thoughts on the proposed innovation zone downtown? What kind of development would you like to see in the district? Leave your comments below.

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Written by Kate Harrington

Kate is a former reporter, most recently for the Austin Business Journal, where she covered real estate, economic development and transportation. Since 2010 she has been running Thumbtack Communications. Thumbtack provides writing, editing and marketing services. Before moving to Austin in 2002 Kate lived in her native New England, which she still visits often to escape the Texas heat.