Battelle Report Underscores Importance of Talent to Drive Innovation

Purposeful Indianapolis urban innovation district essential for accelerating growth

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., August 13, 2015—  For continued success, Indianapolis needs to take more strategic advantage of the strong concentration of talent in its urban core, leading to a nationally competitive range of opportunities for regional growth and innovation in life sciences, information technology, agricultural innovation, advanced manufacturing, and other “advanced industries*,” according to a new report from the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice, Indy’s Talent Dynamics Driving Innovation and Implications for Regional Competitiveness.

This detailed report examines the essential role of talent in building a thriving ecosystem and the importance of innovation for regional competitiveness, and that a place-making strategy is critical for the Indianapolis region’s future growth.


“The Indianapolis region has a lot going for it – exceptional legacy companies, a collaborative community and a growing entrepreneurial ecosystem, but as this study shows, we need to do more to increase our talent pipeline and to form more innovation-driven companies across the advanced industries.  Our ability to compete on a global level requires two factors – talent and innovation.  Talent begets innovation, but it also needs a physical hub to thrive–and we really don’t have that place here yet,” said David L. Johnson, president and CEO of BioCrossroads.

In addition to the need for an innovation district, the study points to some troubling warning signs for continued growth including a low number of college degrees within the population, a migration of college graduates to other states, and the slow formation of new businesses.

While the 11-county Indy metro area has seen some employment growth in the advanced industries sector 7.7 percent between 2009 and 2013  – one percent above the national average; and an increase in high-skilled and low-skilled job growth that outpaces the nation (12 percent vs. 6 percent for high-skilled jobs and 8 percent vs. 4 percent for low-skilled jobs), there are some concerning trends that can affect future development.

Indy Metro’s highly-educated population is growing faster than the overall population growth (4.1 percent), but it is not keeping pace with the nation or benchmark regions:

·         Indy 7%

·         U.S. 11%

·         Pittsburgh Metro 17%

·         Nashville Metro 13%

In addition, the growth rate for a key demographic of the income-earning population (25-34 year olds) is slipping, at only a 2 percent increase between 2009 to 2013.  Another key finding is that we are losing a population of highly-educated professional by a net migration to other states (more than 5,000 people between 2009 and 2013).

And, although the Indy metro area has a sizable and growing university research base and is on par with the national pace for generating patents, it has a lack of innovation capital to fund new businesses and technology development.

In order to reverse these downward trends, the Battelle study recommends that a significant place-making strategy for the urban center of Indianapolis is implemented, in particular, the 16 Tech area.

“The lack of an innovation district is holding the Indy region back,” said Mitchell Horowitz, author of the Battelle study and head of the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice.  “There are several innovation assets within the urban core, but an actual location to discover, incubate and collaborate is critical to economic growth and development.  Having the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute (IBRI) located in an innovation district like what could be possible at the 16 Tech area could change the entire business and innovation landscape and complement Indy Metro’s research and innovation drivers in life sciences, IT, and advanced manufacturing.  The city is very well-positioned because of its academic community to win talent, but you can’t just have one piece.  You have to have great jobs and a place to do them.”

“The potential of an urban innovation district at 16 Tech is incredibly exciting – it could be an ideal location for the IBRI as an anchor tenant.  But it’s also critical to advance development for our city.” Johnson continued,  “If we can’t be more of a collection point for talent and entrepreneurial activity at scale, it’s going to be difficult even for our traditional, very robust companies to continue to do what they’re doing on their own.  We’re at a point where the all of these pieces need to come together, stay together and expand together on a much more dynamic basis than in the past.  That’s why we’ve been so excited to think about starting with a core like the IBRI – where you bring in 200 extraordinarily talented people here to do amazing things and leverage that impact to do more across all technologies and skill levels.”

The full report, Indy’s Talent Dynamics Driving Innovation and Implications for Regional Competitiveness, is available, BioCrossroads’ Web site for reports and educational information.

About BioCrossroads

BioCrossroads ( is Indiana’s initiative to grow, advance and invest in the life sciences, a public-private collaboration that supports the region’s existing research and corporate strengths while encouraging new business development.  BioCrossroads provides money and support to life sciences businesses, launches new life sciences enterprises (Indiana Biosciences Research Institute, Indiana Health Information Exchange, BioCrossroadsLINX,OrthoWorx and Datalys Center), expands collaboration and partnerships among Indiana’s life science institutions, promotes science education and markets Indiana’s life sciences industry.

*The Brookings study analyzed 50 “advanced industries,” defined to be industries that invest heavily in technology innovation (more than $450 per worker), employ a workforce highly skilled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and also “encompass the country’s best shot at supporting innovative, inclusive and sustainable growth.”