Maximizing ROI on Indiana's $1B Investment - Industry Initiatives (Part 5)

by Mitch Bruno

This week, we continue our analysis and recommendations on Indiana’s $1B investment in innovation through industry initiatives. To read through each part of our series to date, start here. The Indiana Economic Development Council’s 4th area of focus states:

“Supporting industry-driven strategic innovation and advancements by increasing support of industry initiatives, such as AgriNovus Indiana, BioCrossroads, Conexus, Energy Systems Network and TechPoint, and by spurring development of cross-sector transformational efforts, such as the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, OrthoWorx, 16 Tech and the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute.”

To best determine how to invest Indiana’s $1B in innovation, it is vital that the state develop industry-led partnerships.  Industry-led partnerships will enhance the Indiana Economic Development Council’s (IEDC) knowledge of various industries, and allow for the state to understand where an industry believes innovation and technology is developing. In turn, this allows the IEDC to make a more informed investment decision.  By establishing partnerships with industry leaders, IEDC can work with industry experts with more knowledge on areas of growth and innovation, helping them to avoid arbitrarily or politically picking “winning investments over losing investments”.  To establish a meaningful program of industry-led partnerships, the following four steps should be adhered to.

  1. Utilize Industry Aggregators

Current public-private partnerships and sector specific initiatives already in play include Battery Innovation Center(BIC), Launch Indiana, and IoT Labs. Properly functioning industry-led partnerships will require substantial involvement from these existing entities.  These entities serve as current proof of the capabilities of the State and private industry partnerships. At the very least, they can provide a template for future industry led partnerships.  These partnerships and sector specific initiatives have also given the State incredible access to a variety of industries.  If left out of the IEDC’s decision making process, the potential industry partners’ impact and effectiveness will be significantly diminished.

  1. Develop Leveraging Impact

While the State has $1B to invest in innovation and technology, that amount can be added to by additional outside investors.  If the IEDC is able to develop industry led partnerships, stakeholder and investors will naturally follow.  Allowing industry leaders to be involved in the investment decision-making process, will signal that these are promising opportunities to additional investors.  It is important that the State’s investments are not only productive, but that the decision-making process behind those investments is robust. 

  1. Identify Strategic Sectors

Identifying the key sectors into which IEDC will invest in must be a collaborative decision made with input from a variety of stakeholders.  Determining the sectors where innovation and technology is developing, and furthermore, finding opportunities in those sectors that the State can accelerate progress through its investment, is a difficult proposition.  To ensure one voice does not dominate, a diverse group of industry leaders including company executives, investors, and researchers, in multiple sectors will be required.  A steering committee will need to be formed to help lead IEDC toward fruitful investments.

  1. Industry Buy-In

A partnership requires two parties, thus without a commitment and actual buy-in from the leaders of various industries, a true partnership cannot be formed.  The question remains, however, how to find and encourage industry leaders to participate.  Naturally, the current public-private partnerships and sector specific initiatives are a great place to start for generating industry buy-in for many of the same reasons as above.

Another reasonable starting place to find industry leaders is to reach out to regional economic development agencies, such as CICP, RADIUS, and GAGE.  With a presumably closer relationship to the industries and businesses in their region, input from regional economic development agencies can be help to better inform the wider-ranged IEDC.

Along with regional economic development agencies, Indiana is fortunate to have multiple major research universities.  The inclusion of tech transfer representatives from these institutions are vital, as they are a large stakeholder in innovation and developing new technologies in the state of Indiana.

Ultimately a large stakeholder committee or number of committees of industrial technology champions from a broad range of entities, in type, size, and technical sectors to need work together to help lead with IEDC in maximizing the state’s return on their $1B investment.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR – mitch bruno

Mitch Bruno is an attorney at Gutwein Law. Prior to receiving his J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School, he earned a BS in Mathmatics & Economics from The University of Chicago. He focuses primarily on real estate and business law.

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