There was a very celebratory gathering recently in northern Tampa on the University of Florida (USF) campus that deserves wider attention. The Innovation Gathering event held a few weeks ago was Tampa Innovation Partnership’s signature annual event created to call attention to innovation in the area and their accomplishments toward the growth of a concerted innovation district there. Known as Tampa !p, the organization’s efforts have successfully turned their local community—with diverse industry clusters of technology, health care, education and entertainment—into one of Tampa Bay’s technology hubs and major startup business incubators.

The evening vividly and impressively showcased the remarkable ability of individual leaders in a neighborhood to build and nurture community collaboration and innovation development. By creating a unifying vision for the growth of the region, they were able to jointly determined $11.3 billion in annual potential economic impact for their 19-square-mile business region. This active working relationship was exhibited by key partners speaking from the University of South Florida (USF), Hillsborough County, the City of Tampa, the state of Florida, and the private sector about their enthusiastic commitment to help leverage the strengths of “Uptown Tampa” for the purpose of driving Florida’s innovation economy and creating high-wage jobs.

After an intensive hour of networking and local “Taste of Uptown” eatery noshing, here’s a brief overview of key remarks from some of the speakers:

Organized Innovation

“This is about all of us coming together with a collaborative set of guiding principles and vision that is going to be able to lift up this area for everyone. That’s what is important. I’m looking forward to that collaborative partnership.” —Jane Castor, Tampa Mayor

 “This collaboration across institutions is what we see when we look at other regions that are mature ecosystems at commercializing technology. This is what we call orchestrated commercialization through organized innovation. We as leaders can create the organizational conditions where innovation flourishes… a lot that has to do with network dynamics. This is where great things happen in networks and events like this tonight. It’s about the connectivity and the ideas among us that develop out of our interactions. What we can do as leaders in this innovation network is to help co-ordinate this network and orchestrate this commercialization process.”Steve Currall, USF President

Social Change And People

To highlight that this economic development is as much social as business oriented, special recognition was given to leaders of The Community Enrichment Labs (cel) whose goals are to make sure that residents and the human element stays a major part of the area’s growth agenda:

“There is a tremendous amount of procedural, tactical, political actions needed to get this point. But, most important and exciting is the social. There are right here, around us, problems worth solving. There are people who need lifting up.  There are great ideas and innovations, phenomenal institutions and innovators, we can connect and put them to work all around us. We can connect all the pieces that are here in the most meaningful and impactful way so we can fill the gaps and fulfill the social potential of the area.”Shilen Patel, Chairman, Community Enrichment Lab

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