Celebrating Innovation And Entrepreneurship in a Community

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In his book The Coming Jobs War, author Jim Clifton says "Today’s explorers migrate to the cities that are most likely to maximize innovation and entrepreneurial talents and skill. Wherever the most talented choose to migrate is where the next economic empires will rise. That’s why San Francisco, Seoul, and Singapore have become such colossal engines of job creation."

Though many Indiana communities started with a strong entrepreneurial climate that led to innovative new businesses and products, the state went through a period of time where decision makers were somewhere else, where new research and development happened at a home office outside of Indiana and we became largely “order takers.” And for many decades, we did a really good job of making the things people in other parts of the country and world needed.

But those times are changing and businesses have once again found Indiana to be fertile ground for new discoveries. With a low cost of doing business, one of the nation’s best business climates, and access to the talent base located at Indiana’s colleges and universities, who can blame them.

Those colleges and universities have become important incubators for new discoveries that ultimately can be commercialized in a new company or at an existing business.

Recently in South Bend, some 125 inventors from Notre Dame who were named on 86 disclosures were honored, along with 61 inventors that were awarded patents. Also recognized were 9 technology licenses to 8 companies and 16 partnering entities ranging from incubators and entrepreneurial programs to patent law support and Cleveland Clinic Innovations.

Those inventors were honored as part of the seventh annual 1st Source Bank Commercialization Award Dinner. The dinner has become an important community celebration of the not only the inventors but also of the important community partners that help form the “village” working to commercialize technology across North Central Indiana.

The event, and part of the Innovation, De-Risking, and Enterprise Acceleration (IDEA) Center at the University of Notre Dame, supporting a vibrant culture of research, innovation, and commercialization.

This year’s commercialization award winner was Dr. Nitesh Chawla and the company Aunalytics. Chawla is an award winning professor and researcher at the University of Notre Dame. He’s worked for years to disrupt the data and analytics space with a novel atom-centric approach to data, a collaborative and user-focused analytics platform, and a relentless focus on delivering the best answers to the biggest problems. He has helped create a new data science software, Aunsight, allowing data scientists and business analysts to deliver on the business value proposition of big data analytics.

Chawla and the Aunalytics team have grown from a start-up on the University of Notre Dame Campus in Innovation Park to its current location in South Bend’s Ignition Park, a site that once housed the Studebaker Automotive Company. Aunalytics’ leadership team and staff include graduates from universities spanning coast to coast, including Notre Dame, Stanford, Indiana, Michigan, Chicago, Loyola, Gonzaga, Waterloo and Stony Brook.

Susan Siegel, the CEO of GE Ventures and healthymagination was the event’s keynote speaker. She oversees GE’s growth and innovation business comprised of early market development, investing, licensing, and new business creation. Siegel was especially impressed with what she saw in Northern Indiana and was complementary of the efforts of the University and the Community. Events like this and work that’s being done at the colleges and universities in Indiana are causing companies like GE to pay close attention to the Hoosier State.

As part of the celebration, Startup South Bend – Elkhart, the Regional Development Authority's Entrepreneurship Committee, presented their first annual Regional Innovation Impact Forum. The forum showcased ignite-style presentations designed to inspire creativity and innovation that directly impacts businesses around the region and across the country. Presentations highlighted a number of the efforts in the area to attract and develop new technologies and new investments to the region.

The evening was an important reminder about the “village” that it takes to commercialize new technology as many key partners from campus and the community were celebrated. Couple this with the quality of place improvement underway as part of the Regional Cities effort and all signs point to future economic growth across North Central Indiana.

This effort is just one of many efforts happening across the State drawing attention to the Hoosier State and putting it on the radars of entrepreneurs looking to start their business or companies looking to grow theirs. Who knows, maybe in Clifton’s sequel he’ll talk about the economic empires being built in right here in Indiana.

Jeff Rea is chief executive officer of the South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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