Building a world-class innovation ecosystem

The pandemic world we have navigated over the last two years has taught us many lessons, including the importance of adaptability, perseverance, teamwork, rapid iteration and entrepreneurial skills.

The development of COVID-19 vaccinations at lightning speed is just one of the many advancements that could not have been achieved without bold thinking and entrepreneurial muscle. The critical need for students to develop entrepreneurship know-how has been on dramatic display since 2020, raising awareness of the need for young people to become master problem solvers.

Entrepreneurship and innovation programs abound on college and university campuses in Northeast Ohio, and graduates who have availed themselves of opportunities to develop and pitch ideas, start a venture, or intern at a startup have an advantage when it to comes to advancing ideas within a company setting. These team members are more likely to possess a predilection for action and be eager to share new ideas.

Students who have experienced a robust entrepreneurial environment have seen the results generated by diversity of thought, reprisal-free experimentation and collaboration with people who are purpose driven. They are versatile in the roles they can play moving ideas forward, and they are committed to achieving outcomes, rather than being constrained by the trappings of a job title.

The matching of talent to available needs is an increasing challenge for businesses, and companies are recognizing the importance of having team members who possess entrepreneurial skills that help these hires be agile and shift paradigms in challenging times. Entrepreneurial thinkers are well-positioned to engage in rapid experimentation that facilitates iteration and move on from failures without getting stuck. Experience in the startup world allows entrepreneurial thinkers to find productive ways to collaborate with smaller, more nimble ventures, often resulting in win-win scenarios for all those involved.

We are living in a changed world. And if it is managed to its full potential, we could be entering an era akin to the explosion of inventions and product advancements that characterized the years following World War II, fueled by need, opportunity, scientific research and energy. Indeed, the number of new ventures surged in 2020 and, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Ohio had one of the highest increases in business start rates in the nation — an increase of more than 30 percent over the 2019 rate.

Given this background, it makes sense that our region should focus considerable resources on ensuring that as many students as possible, at all levels of education, are steeped in the elements of the entrepreneurial mindset. Our region, more than most, has developed a vibrant network of programming on campuses and among campuses to ensure access to high-quality entrepreneurship and innovation education. Now is the time to boost these efforts and build a truly world-class university-based entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem second to none that will benefit students, institutions, businesses, communities and the regional economy.

Our region’s long history of ingenuity heralds this development, and the future demands it. ●

Deborah D. Hoover is president and CEO of The Burton D. Morgan Foundation

Deborah D. Hoover

President and CEO


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