Civic News
Economics / Philadelphia

Brookings report: How University City fits among US ‘innovation districts’

Philadelphia, the report said, is "leveraging its assets in teaching, research and medicine to become a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship."

Instead of following the model of Silicon Valley’s isolated office parks, cities around the world are building “innovation districts,” where founders, researchers and students can live, work and play, according to a new report from the Brookings Institution. The innovation district in Philadelphia’s University City, anchored by Penn, Drexel and the University City Science Center, is one that Brookings Institution highlighted in its report.

These areas, the report said, can revitalize a city by spurring economic development, increasing populations and providing job and educational opportunities to low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.

Read the report

map innovatin districts philly

Philadelphia is one of nearly two-dozen cities and regions worldwide with innovation districts. Philadelphia, the report said, is “leveraging its assets in teaching, research and medicine to become a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship.”

What makes an innovation district? The report highlights three things:

  • Economic assets, or the organizations supporting innovation. For Philly, that’s Penn and Drexel, the University City Science Center, First Round Capital, DreamIt Ventures and many others.
  • Physical assets, or physical spaces where people can meet. That’s the Quorum event and coworking space at the Science Center’s 3711 Market Street building or the Creative Café @ Replica on the bottom floor of the 3711 Market Street.
  • Networking assets, or the ties between people, firms and institutions. There’s Philly Startup Leaders, PACT and every tech meetup and developer user group in the city.

In University City, the Science Center is building a residential high-rise, with retail on the first floor, alongside its buildings that play host to events, entrepreneurs and researchers. The Science Center is also working with Drexel to implement the university’s plan to build an “Innovation Neighborhood” with 10 new buildings — a mix of commercial, residential and academic — to help accelerate economic development in the city.

While the report is mostly focused on neighborhoods, like University City, you could think of mini innovation districts all over Philly. Consider the innovation “district” that is an open floor-plan coworking space like Indy Hall or NextFab Studio.

What’s maybe most interesting about the innovation districts mentioned in the report is their potential to tackle social inequality problems in nearby low- to- moderate-income neighborhoods.

From the report: Innovation districts should “promote inclusive growth by using the innovation district as a platform to regenerate adjoining distressed neighborhoods as well as creating educational, employment and other opportunities for low-income residents of the city.”

In the video below, watch Drexel president John Fry discuss that issue at a presentation in Washington, D.C., earlier today.

Companies: Brookings Institution / Drexel University / University City Science Center / University of Pennsylvania

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