New Oakland-based partnership focused on building Pittsburgh's Innovation Economy
InnovatePGH will drive citywide growth in life sciences, automation and advanced manufacturing
(PITTSBURGH, PA) In a bold move positioning Pittsburgh as a global innovation hub, regional leaders today announced the formation of InnovatePGH, a public-private partnership conceived to accelerate Pittsburgh’s growth as a global destination for technology-based economic activity.
InnovatePGH was born from the 2017 Brookings Institution study: “Capturing the next economy: Pittsburgh’s rise as a global innovation city,” which was funded by the Heinz Endowments and the Hillman Foundation. Formed to implement key recommendations from the Brookings report, InnovatePGH will be situated in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood, enabling it to draw upon the valuable resources of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, two of the nation’s top flight research institutions, and UPMC's substantial intellectual capital.
“We’re excited to be part of today’s announcement and this overall effort which builds upon our existing community framework,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “For our region to continue to grow and innovate, we need to be future-looking and work collaboratively and cooperatively to build upon our strengths and assets. InnovatePGH does exactly that and we look forward to what this partnership will accomplish.”
“The Brookings Report has been an important call to action for our regional economic development partners,” said Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto. “InnovatePGH is the city’s platform to build the knowledge infrastructure needed to translate our technological strengths into an inclusive and equitable growth strategy for the entire city.”
Based on key recommendations from the report, InnovatePGH immediately aims to:
- Define, bolster, and connect the Pittsburgh Innovation District – centered on Oakland and bridging other world-class innovation assets from the Strip District, Lawrenceville, East Liberty/Bakery Square, the South Side, Uptown, downtown, the North Side and beyond
- Leverage unique assets at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University into a specialized economic development recruitment and retention program
- Accelerate and support existing efforts by the Pittsburgh Council for Higher Education to launch an affiliated Talent Alliance, a workforce development pipeline within the Innovation District.
InnovatePGH is also a platform to drive the advanced development of three specific industry clusters: advanced manufacturing, life sciences and automation. The “Capturing the next economy” report identifies the region’s research universities as the essential foundation to expand all three clusters.
“Carnegie Mellon is proud to play a decisive role with our civic, foundation, academic and industry partners in launching InnovatePGH and taking this vital step toward realizing Pittsburgh’s potential as a global leader in innovation,” said CMU Interim President Farnam Jahanian.
“InnovatePGH is a platform for propelling the city forward in powerful ways,” says Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “This new command center will enable us to move swiftly and strategically to turn ideas into innovations, and it will fuel a tech revolution that the University of Pittsburgh is honored to help lead.”
“Working in partnership with InnovatePGH positions us to leverage, better than ever, the power of Pittsburgh’s abundant tech and innovation assets. Together we can build bridges between established and emerging industries and the innovation pouring out of our universities, accelerators and incubators to help the region fully capture all the benefits of an innovation economy,” said Allegheny Conference on Community Development CEO Stefani Pashman.
To rapidly mobilize these programs, InnovatePGH has hired Sean Luther as executive director. Luther brings a decade of advanced economic development, real estate fundamentals and urban place management experience to InnovatePGH’s efforts to expand Pittsburgh’s knowledge economy assets, especially in Oakland. He previously managed the launch and implementation of Envision Downtown and served in senior management roles at Green Building Alliance and as President and CEO of Downtown Roanoke, Inc. in Roanoke, Va.
“We are structuring the initiative to mirror the startup landscape itself,” Luther said. “We want to move quickly to support the innovation ecosystem and be experimental in our approach.”
Recent efforts by InnovatePGH partners that build on this work include:
- University of Pittsburgh’s launch of the LifeX™ Initiative providing capital, expertise and physical space for a cohort of life science startups
- UPMC’s $2 billion investment in new, leading-edge, specialty hospitals within the Pittsburgh Innovation District
- Carnegie Mellon University’s Manufacturing Futures Initiative and the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute will anchor the $20 million first phase of the Mill 19 complex at Hazelwood Green.
Q: Is InnovatePGH a new non-profit organization?
A: No. InnovatePGH operates under an independent fiscal sponsorship arrangement with Avenu, a non-profit focused on supporting equitable business development in Pittsburgh’s dynamic Fifth/Forbes corridor. Allowing for maximum innovation and flexibility, InnovatePGH is structured as a partnership between Allegheny County, the City of Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, UPMC, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, and regional philanthropies.
Q: What is the Pittsburgh Innovation District?
A: Establishment of an Innovation District is a key recommendation from the “Capturing the next economy: Pittsburgh’s rise as a global innovation city” report. The Pittsburgh Innovation District will launch in April and include a new brand platform and placemaking partnership representative of the more than $2 billion of construction and $1.2 billion of R&D underway today in Oakland and adjacent neighborhoods.
Q: Is InnovatePGH involved in Pittsburgh’s Amazon HQ2 bid?
A: InnovatePGH is tightly and intentionally coordinated with Pittsburgh’s Amazon HQ2 bid, which is being led by the PGHQ2 Partnership, and other strategic business attraction efforts.
Q: How will InnovatePGH support the work of existing economic development efforts?
A: InnovatePGH works closely with the Allegheny Conference and its economic development affiliate the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, and Allegheny County Economic Development to promote the Pittsburgh Innovation District as a marquee destination for technology companies, corporate innovation centers and university spinouts. The initiative is being coordinated closely with city and regional business attraction efforts.