State ‘innovation hubs’ target growth

In hopes of spurring economic development, Gov. Dannel Malloy visited New Haven last week to announce a series of policies designed to foster new business growth and create “innovation hubs” throughout Connecticut.

Malloy’s policies are part of the state’s Innovation Ecosystem program, which aims to grow the Connecticut economy through an array of financial, technical and professional resource offerings for businesses. As part of the program, Malloy announced plans to start four state “innovation hubs” — local offices that will house Innovation Ecosystem resources and help businesspeople network. The hubs, which will be located in Stamford, Hartford, Storrs and New Haven, will cost $5 million initially and are funded through Malloy’s 2011 Jobs Bill.

“Connecticut has long been the home of discovery and innovation,” Malloy said in a press release. “Connecticut’s Innovation Ecosystem will help expand the number of new businesses that choose to start and run their operations in the state, creating high-skill jobs with good wages and benefits; strengthening our communities; and enhancing the quality of life for all our citizens.”

Each of the innovation hubs will provide support for entrepreneurs ranging from mentoring services to small grants. Malloy added the hubs will also function as collaborative workspaces where entrepreneurs with varied business interests and expertise will be able to work together.

Tim Shannon, a venture partner at financial firm Canaan Partners, lauded the state’s plan to encourage local business colaboration. He said the Innovation Ecosystem program “will help build communities that connect technologists, scientists and innovators, resulting in a more vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem that will naturally attract more talent and venture opportunities.”

The state also has plans to expand the impact ecosystem beyond the four hubs — according to a press release from Malloy’s office, a network of collaboration will be established across Connecticut that will be accessible to all entrepreneurs in Connecticut. More communication between state officials and business leaders through the innovation networks will allow the state to better track economic development and target resources more effectively, the press release said.

“We’ve learned that entrepreneurs want to be in places with the best networks — be they technical, financial or social — which enable them to explore and test great ideas and to find the partners, attract the investment, and connect with the customers they need to grow,” said Catherine Smith, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development and chair of Connecticut Innovations. “With the addition of Connecticut’s Innovation Ecosystem, we continue to build our world-class program of economic development and to cultivate a business climate that is second to none.”

New Haven’s hub includes a specific set of programs on the horizon. These programs include Grove Co-working Space, A100, the CEO Bootcamp, the Entreprenuer’s Forum, the Founder’s Fund Fellowship, LaunchHaven and Nutmeg Studios. While the programs aim to give local businesses a leg up in the workplace, each has a different approach to tackle the problem. A100, for example, will help university engineering students enter the workforce. The CEO Bootcamp is designed to train company CEOs in the market demand for their product, and the Entreprenuer’s Forum is a bimonthly dinner that encourages local business owners to attend and discuss ideas.

“I think the focus is on small business, and that’s how we’re going to grow jobs,” said Kelly Murphy, the economic development administrator for the city of New Haven. She added that in a recent city survey, 7,600 people identified themselves as independent contractors, which is a large number for a small city.

Connecticut’s Innovation Ecosystem follows the creation of Still Revolutionary, a program that is designed to highlight the positive impact of companies and business people in Connecticut.

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