The Global Institute on Innovation Districts

We provide in-depth research, analysis, and consultation on innovation districts around the globe

In response to global demand, The Global Institute on Innovation Districts is being established by a group of influential leaders—researchers, policymakers and practitioners—active in the growth and advancement of innovation districts.

Driven by broad economic, cultural and demographic trends, cities around the world are witnessing the emergence of innovation districts—places that sit at the intersection of innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity, and placemaking. Innovation districts are small, walkable areas where anchor institutions, firms, labs, and other actors collaborate as a collective to increase their competitive potential. This shared commitment to “collaborate to compete” is one of the defining characteristics of innovation districts that the Global Institute on Innovation Districts will support and advance.

Innovation districts are developing around anchors such as universities, medical centers, and large companies located along waterfronts, in the downtowns and midtowns of cities, or in walkable suburban areas. Strong in biosciences, technologies, and creative industries, these districts cluster cutting-edge research institutions and R&D-intensive companies with start-ups, scale-ups, and business incubators. They are physically compact, transit-accessible, and offer mixed-use housing, office, laboratory, and retail spaces. And importantly, they are an ambitious group: positioning themselves to grow into vibrant and highly competitive locales with stronger economic ties to the region, the country, and other global regions.

The Global Institute on Innovation Districts will provide in-depth research, analysis, and consultation to accelerate the advancement of innovation districts around the globe. Whether in early stage or more advanced, innovation districts must leverage economic, place, networking and leadership assets to drive long-term economic outcomes. Among its portfolio of work, the Global Institute will create a global network of innovation districts, giving them tailored support and a platform to share ideas and strategies—all to strengthen their position as they navigate crucial decisions, opportunities, and challenges through all stages of their growth and advancement.


The Global Institute on Innovation Districts

By conservative estimates, there are now more than a hundred innovation districts emerging across the globe.

Geographically, economically, and culturally diverse, these districts are financed by sources ranging from venture capital to tax revenues. Even so, there is little data about how to target investment to accelerate their growth and advancement. And despite the priority to attract, retain, and nurture the best talent, many struggle to do so. Likewise, while few argue with the priority to include city as well as regional residents in their growth, strategies for creating shared value and broad economic and social benefits remain elusive.

The Global Institute on Innovation Districts is being established to address these and other challenges.

The principal work is to:

Create a global network of innovation districts strategically connecting them with their global peers to help them leapfrog ahead.

Identify and monitor the growth of innovation districts across global regions.

Foster collective engagement on top priorities such as access to capital or IP protections creating norms around growth, finance, and governance.

Provide detailed evidence based strategies and data to accelerate their work.

Support communication and shared learning across districts.

Capture and dissect their main challenges and highlight their successes.

Background on the global institute

The Global Institute on Innovation Districts

Theory and practice of innovation districts

This work demands a strong, interdisciplinary group of thinkers and practitioners to match the multi-dimensionality of innovation districts themselves. Given this demand, a growing number of global leaders—driving both the theory and practice of innovation districts—are working together to establish the Global Institute. Most notably:

Julie Wagner, President, Urban Insight

Julie Wagner is President of Urban Insight, a consulting firm dedicated to the support and advancement of innovation districts. She is a prolific urban researcher and co-author of the research paper, “The Rise of Innovation Districts: A New Geography of Innovation in America.” For over 12 years she has served as a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, an independent think tank based in Washington DC, where she designed and led numerous global research initiatives including the Bass Initiative for Innovation and Placemaking. She is also a visiting scholar for the Esade Business School’s Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics. Julie co-authored several papers regarding the changing role of innovation and place including “Innovation spaces: The new design of work,” and “Advancing a new wave of economic competitiveness: The role of mayors in the rise of innovation districts.” Living in Europe, she continues to help advance the competitiveness of cities and regions globally, including Amsterdam, Copenhagen, London, Milan, Silicon Valley, Sheffield, Sydney and Torino. She is also supporting a national district process in Israel. A trained city planner, Julie served as a deputy planning director for the District of Columbia where she developed the city’s long-range plan. She earned a Masters in City Planning from MIT and holds a Bachelors in Organizational Communication from Northeastern University. Julie has received several planning awards from MIT and the American Planning Association for her work.

Bruce Katz, Director, Nowak Metro Finance Lab, Drexel University

Bruce Katz is the Director of the Nowak Metro Finance Lab at Drexel University in Philadelphia, which will capture, deepen, and accelerate the burgeoning field of metro finance. He is also Co-Founder of New Localism Advisors, which aims to help cities design, finance and deliver transformative initiatives that promote inclusive and sustainable growth. Bruce was the Centennial Scholar at the Brookings Institution from January 2016 to March 2018, where he focused on the challenges and opportunities of global urbanization. Bruce assumed this role after 20 years at Brookings, where he founded the Metropolitan Policy Program. He is a prolific, and globally-renown author and opinion-shaper regarding urban and metropolitan growth and redevelopment. He is the co-author of the research paper, “The Rise of Innovation Districts: A New Geography of Innovation in America.,” which observes how new geographies of innovation are emerging in response to broad economic and demographic forces that value specific place-based attributes and amenities. Before joining Brookings, Bruce served as chief of staff to U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros and was the senior counsel and then staff director for the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Housing and Urban Affairs. Bruce is the co-author of The New Localism: How Cities Can Thrive in the Age of Populism and The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy. He is a graduate of Brown University and Yale Law School.

Tom Osha, Senior Vice President, Wexford Science + Technology

Tom Osha is employed by Wexford Science + Technology as Senior Vice President, Innovation and Economic Development. In this role, he guides Wexford’s implementation of its Knowledge Community strategy across their development stakeholders globally to position Wexford’s research park developments as critical hubs in the regional innovation ecosystem.

Miquel Barceló, Director of Master in Business Innovation, Catalonia Politecnical University

For over thirty years, Miquel Barceló has participated in the definition, implementation and execution of policies and public and private projects in the fields of innovation, R&D, technology transfer, clusters, innovative urban development, industry and quality.Miquel holds a PhD in Industrial Engineering by the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), and undergraduate degrees in Economic Sciences by the Universidad de Barcelona (UB) and in Social Sciences by ICESB (UB). In the past, he has occupied several positions such as General Director and President at the TEC Foundation (2007-2011), member of the Abertis Telecom Council from 2004 through 2011, Executive President at 22@ Barcelona (2004-2007), independent member of the Parlament de Catalunya from 1999-2003, (where he presided the industry and energy commission), General Director at the Instituto Catalán de Tecnología (1987-1999), General Subdirector of industrial safety, technical norms and regulations at the Ministry of Industry and Energy from 1985 through 1987, Founding president of the Red Española de Laboratorios de Ensayo (RELE) and founding member of AENOR (Asociación Española de Normalización y Certificación.

Partners of this effort include The American Assembly at Columbia University among other non-profit, public, and private entities.

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The Global Institute on Innovation Districts

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