Web Exclusive: Lechleiter Says 'Time is Right'

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16 Tech would run along Indiana Avenue, south of 16th Street in downtown Indianapolis. 16 Tech would run along Indiana Avenue, south of 16th Street in downtown Indianapolis.

The chief executive officer of one of the state's most powerful and prominent companies feels "the time is right" for creation of an innovation district in Indianapolis to serve as a magnet for cutting edge companies and talent. "I think every city that has developed a strong technology core has a central district of this kind," said Eli Lilly and Co. (NYSE: LLY) CEO John Lechleiter in a recent interview at the company's corporate headquarters. "I am hopeful that community and political leaders can find a way to help enable that." Monday evening, the Indianapolis City-County Council first heard a measure to sell $75 million in bonds to fund infrastructure upgrades around the 16 Tech development, a nearly 60-acre area close to the IUPUI campus.

A recent report from the Columbus, Ohio-based Battelle Memorial Institute identified an innovation district as a key strategy for regional growth. Indiana's life sciences initiative, BioCrossroads, is considering locating the $360 million Indiana Biosciences Research Institute as an anchor of the 16 Tech development.

Baltimore-based Wexford Science and Technology is leading development work on a potential innovation district, including determining whether 16 Tech should be the permanent home for the IBRI.

The IBRI is currently in 25,000 square feet of temporary space in the Indiana University Biotechnology Research & Training Center, just north of the IUPUI medical school campus.

In an interview on Inside Indiana Business Television in July, IBRI Chief Executive Officer David Broecker envisioned the district as a world class "innovation community" similar to well-known research centers like Kendall Square in Boston. "Kendall Square is known worldwide as a place that attracts talent," said Broecker, who spent time in Boston as chief executive officer of biotech firm Alkermes Inc. 

"It's an entrepreneurial community, surrounded by Harvard and MIT and you have a unique place that thrives on research, talent and entrepreneurship. That's exactly what we are trying to establish."

But Broecker was quick to point out that Indiana has what it takes to build its own, unique research center. "Everybody wants to look at other places and be like them... it's not about trying to be like other places," said Broecker. "We've got the IU Med School, IUPUI, we're proximate to key stakeholders. I really believe it can rival something like you see in Boston or San Francisco and places like that."

Funding for the $360 million project is to come from a mix of private, public and philanthropic sources. Less than five months after its launch, the IBRI announced it had raised $25 million to match $25 million approved by the Indiana General Assembly.

Broecker expects to announce that another $100 million has been raised by the end of 2015.

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