116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
By Jack Harris
For years as an executive at Rockwell Collins, I worked with state universities and entrepreneurs who were producing research and products that we needed to enhance our product line or create efficiencies. It could be a tedious process, but it was often more cost-effective than attempting to do the same thing in-house.
What I didn't know is that this would be the basis of my next career, president/CEO of Iowa Innovation Corporation.
The IIC is a business-led non-profit that has ties in business, academia and government. Because we were created by the Iowa Legislature, people want to color us as a government agency and that simply isn't true. We do contract with the Iowa Economic Development Authority to manage programs but we are exactly what Iowa's past three governors envisioned: a public/private partnership committed to economic development.
So what should you care? Simply, the IIC is key to Iowa's role in the global economy. While traditional economic development - attract and retain - is still relevant, it is expensive and complicated. What we're doing is flexible, adaptable and focused on creating infrastructure and talent pool development for Iowa's key industries.
More important, we aren't picking winners and losers. Rather, we are creating an environment that supports more and better ideas. Here are just a few ways we are accomplishing this:
l Connecting research coming out of our state universities to businesses that will use the technologies to add or enhance their existing product offerings, as well as create efficiencies in the manufacturing process.
l Assisting start-ups and entrepreneurs to determine proof of concept and proof of commercial relevance. We're using a model created by business leaders from across the state.
l Developing a seed fund that links capital providers to investable deals. While the seed fund will benefit from $8 million in state tax credits, it is being developed thoughtfully and deliberately. While the tax credits draw significant attentions and some criticism, they are a small part of why the fund will succeed. The fund will not be launched until our board and trusted partners are comfortable the model can achieve access.
If the IIC had existed when I was with Rockwell Collins, they would have made my job significantly easier. I would have had a resource to help me identify the solutions providers I needed.
It's an exciting time to be a part of the Iowa innovation economy, and I invite you to consider just what your role might be.
Jack Harris is president and CEO of the Iowa Innovation Corporation. Comments: jack.harris@iowainnovation