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Pittsburgh at precipice of innovation initiative

September 21, 2017
By: Ellen Marrison

Recognizing that the former steel city was at tipping point in its development, Pittsburgh’s city leaders decided to tip the scale toward continued growth. Whether the city is able to rise to the level of a serious global competitor may hinge on the implementation of initiatives that will guide the city in capitalizing on their innovation, research and business assets, according to a new report from the Brookings Institution. Pittsburgh leaders received a call to action as a result of a collaborative effort initiated by two city foundations and the Brookings Institution.

At the prompting of Brookings and the Heinz Endowments and the Hillman Family Foundations, city leaders studied whether the city’s assets were being fully utilized and how best to pursue growth for the city, says Rebecca Bagley, vice chancellor for economic partnerships at the University of Pittsburgh. Bagley was part of the effort that went into the creation of the Brookings report, Capturing the next economy: Pittsburgh’s rise as a global innovation city, and also serves as an SSTI board member.

What made the effort in Pittsburgh unique was its ability to convene a diverse set of stakeholders representing philanthropy, government, universities and businesses to “roll up our sleeves and solve this together,” Bagley said. “It makes a huge difference if you have people with the same agenda.”

The report includes a roadmap that will need to be sequenced over the coming decade and includes recommendations to:

  • Build and support Pittsburgh’s innovation clusters in advanced manufacturing, life sciences, and autonomous systems;
  • Define, grow and connect the Oakland innovation district;
  • Improve the pipeline of high-growth entrepreneurs with greater investment in high-growth startups; and,
  • Creat a talent alliance within the Oakland innovation district.

Bagley said having the commitment from city leaders will build off the work that has been happening in the city for the past 25 years and that efforts to grow the city will need to focus on growing the tax base and will reach out with workforce developments efforts that will be inclusive.

Bagley is encouraged by the level of commitment for implementation of ideas that she has witnessed from city leaders. “Now the real work begins,” she said.

Pennsylvaniainnovation, policy recommendations