Some of the best innovations happen in the most unexpected places. Who would have thought a building that once housed beer kegs for the Indianapolis 500 would someday become the innovation center for advancements in regenerative medicine?

Cook Regentec saw an unused warehouse for what it could be, not what it was, and we were thrilled to join them as they officially opened their new product development/startup accelerator, home to 90 employees, in the 16 Tech Innovation District. It is the first Indianapolis-based company for Cook Group, the global medical device innovator headquartered in Bloomington.

16 Tech is being built to ignite collaboration across the tech, life sciences and advanced manufacturing and engineering industries among innovators and entrepreneurs, established companies and startups, and universities and research institutions. We’re breaking ground later this year on our first building, which will be home to the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute, (IBRI) Indiana University (IU) School of Medicine, along with the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP) and its various talent and advanced industry initiatives. This mix of tenants represents the ideal cross-section of industry expertise and entrepreneurial energy that will drive innovation, attract talent and grow Central Indiana’s economy.

Cook Regentec is already demonstrating how innovation in the 21st Century economy works. Since 2015, the company has successfully developed and commercialized 12 different products and three early stage companies by engaging a multi-disciplinary team of scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and physicians to create new research and clinical tools to deliver advanced regenerative medicine therapies.

Cook’s decision to locate its product development/startup accelerator in Indianapolis is based on the same underlying principle that will make 16 Tech a driver of economic growth: proximity to central Indiana’s core research assets. Within walking distance are multiple working hospitals, the IU School of Medicine, IBRI and the IU Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering. Each of those enterprises is already teeming with people who have new ideas and fresh solutions to challenges facing not just Indiana, but the world.

It also helps that Cook Regentec can tap into an educated millennial workforce that has chosen to live in Indianapolis’ urban core to enjoy the amenities and walkable proximity to work offered by urban living.

We soon will not have to wonder what might happen if these researchers, product developers, and entrepreneurs get in the same room to work together: that kind of exchange and collaboration will be happening throughout 16 Tech.

Rob Lyles, president of Cook Regentec, has made note of his company’s “relentless pursuit” of the best ideas and collaborations that will help the company develop technologies and create new ventures that make medicine better for patients. Proof of this dedication is that within its warehouse-turned-innovation center, Cook Regentec has carved out room for a 6,000-square-foot “Collaboratory.” This is a dedicated space where Cook Regentec teams will collaborate with researchers at IU School of Medicine and other nearby innovators and entrepreneurs, including the future tenants of 16 Tech.

Among the first interactions to take place at the Collaboratory with Cook Regentec and the IU School of Medicine will be the development of tools and technologies for the emerging areas of immunotherapy, precision medicine, drug delivery, regenerative medicine and bioprinting.

This is the kind of innovation that 16 Tech is being designed to ignite. And it is this kind of collaborative approach to innovation is what will drive Central Indiana’s economy.

Cook Regentec is exactly the company you would expect to be leading the way and demonstrating how to innovate successfully in a new economy. After all, Cook Regentec is the product of Cook Group – an Indiana company that was founded more than 50 years ago by an entrepreneur who kicked off the new field of minimally invasive medicine.

Bill Cook brought his innovative idea to life in the spare bedroom of his Bloomington apartment. 16 Tech offers 60 acres of space dedicated to ideation and collaboration along with hundreds of academics, entrepreneurs and business leaders eager to help nurture the innovative ideas of the future.

We’re so excited to see this latest step toward a district full of people with a spirit like Bill Cook’s who see not just what is before them, but what can be.

Bob Coy is president and CEO of 16 Tech Innovation District, where creative thinkers and doers in tech, life sciences and advanced engineering will connect, collaborate and innovate. Construction on the first district building is to begin this year.

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