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Innovation & Entrepreneurship in Abundance in South Bend Region

Published Wednesday, April 26, 2017

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.”

In our region, a strong foundation has been built to support that innovation and those entrepreneurial efforts. Last week we celebrated those efforts at the eighth annual 1st Source Bank Commercialization Dinner.

In all, some 125 inventors from the University of Notre Dame who were named on 86 disclosures were honored, along with 61 inventors that were awarded patents. Also recognized were nine technology licenses to eight companies and 16 partnering entities ranging from incubators and entrepreneurial programs to patent law support and Cleveland Clinic Innovations.

Some of those inventions could lead to new commercial opportunities in the region, either within an existing company or at a new operation. It is an advantage our region has over others that don’t have a major research university calling the area home.

Prior to the dinner, Startup South Bend — Elkhart, the Regional Development Authority’s Entrepreneurship Committee, presented its 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. They also assessed the current market and communicated about how the internet of things will alter how we all do business in the future.

In addition, presenters shared examples of smart innovation in our marketplace, talked about breaking into new markets, spoke of how we connect Midwest values and investment, dove deeper into how we leverage university research for industry growth and how we expand university growth opportunities.

Startup South Bend — Elkhart was launched to promote and foster the creation of an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region. It launched its new website at the forum, StartupSouthBendElkhart.com.

The 1st Source Commercialization Award was presented to Nitesh Chawla and the company Aunalytics. Chawla received the award, which carries a $20,000 cash prize, for innovating a new data science software, Aunsight, allowing data scientists and business analysts to deliver on the business value proposition of big data analytics.

Susan Siegel, the CEO of GE Ventures and healthymagination was the keynote speaker. She oversees GE’s growth and innovation business comprising early market development, investing, licensing and new business creation. Siegel was especially impressed with what she saw here in our 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.

Who knows, maybe in Clifton’s sequel he’ll talk about the economic empire we’ve built in our region? A strong foundation has been built, many key partners have been mobilized and we have a lot to celebrate. We also have a long way to go, but with a cooperative, collaborative and supportive effort, we can accomplish a lot of things!

By Jeff Rea, South Bend Regional Chamber President and CEO
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