Katy Boren, former Innovation District president and CEO, has been the driving force behind the district since its founding in 2019, and she has spent the last four years advocating for innovative companies and innovators themselves.
“The reason it’s been so successful is that companies and entrepreneurs and universities and scientists and researchers — everyone — were so willing to say ‘yes’ and show support and be involved,” she said. “If you don’t have those people and their ideas and their contributions to the innovation economy — if you don’t have all of that coming together — it really won’t be successful.”
The Brookings Institute noted in 2017 that Oklahoma City had the right ingredients to become an innovation hub, and Boren said OKC was an early adopter to harness innovation as a commodity.
“The Innovation District is kind of that center of gravity in a physical way with the development happening in the Innovation District so people know, in the city, in the state, even from other states, where to come plug in,” she said. “And then the programmatic aspects. We do so many events and programs that are intentionally designed to be an exchange of ideas and to put people together for collaboration.”
What’s the future of the Innovation District?
I just see it really starting to compound on itself. All the work that’s been done and the strategic moves that have been made in the collaboration so far to get us going. It just means it’s going to continue with the same love and attention that we’ve given it so far. It will just continue to manifest itself to the things we all hope will happen.
It’s easy to be an advocate for something that you really believe in. I love the people I work with, and I love all the industries that I work with, and just really the whole ecosystem. All the players are so invested and wonderful to work with. And so many of them get the vision. It makes it really exciting.
What does innovation mean to you?
It’s seeing something in a new way. It could be as easy as seeing something from a new perspective because you’re collaborating and communicating outside of your hallway. Innovation happens in breakthroughs like that. And sometimes it’s an application for something that doesn’t work in one circumstance but it does for something else. Or it does for a different industry or a different problem.But it’s an innovation that finds its problem to solve. Right. But honestly, it starts with the exchange of ideas. And so to me that’s where the magic is.
REAL ESTATE INNOVATOR FINALISTS:
Rick Rainey, i2e
Erika Lucas, Stitchcrew