The Jacksonville region’s newest innovation space opened Friday, adding a dedicated facility for business accelerator, pitch deck facilitation and tech educational activities in the heart of downtown Jacksonville.
The Open Innovation Center (OIC) is a 3,900-square-foot innovation and technology training hub for entrepreneurs and employees from business and industries across the region. The center is a result of a partnership with JAX Chamber and the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) and is located on the second floor of the JTA’s Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center in the historic LaVilla neighborhood.
Building off a modernized approach to economic gardening, the open innovation model that connects large companies, local entrepreneurs and economic development “will foster inventive and forward-thinking solutions to solve some of the business community’s biggest challenges,” as stated by JTA Chief Executive Officer Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. The level of confidence between JAX Chamber and corporations facilitates introductions to trusted startups and small businesses to build a more cohesive business community.
The first program to launch in the center, a vendor lab for JTA and Jacksonville Aviation Authority, will connect small businesses who supply goods and services to understand and expedite the process of working with the agencies. The vendor lab program eliminates barriers to business, saving interested vendors six to seven months on obtaining the required documentation, certification and applications needed to work with the agencies. It also provides a “speed dating” environment to connecting suppliers with designated agency procurement specialists.
Other Open Innovation Partnership initiatives that will be housed in the OIC include:
- Calls to Innovate – a first-of-its-kind initiative that pairs entrepreneurs and innovators with global businesses to address industry challenges and develop use cases in a pitch deck session. The first call to innovate held in April 2022, focused on health care use cases from Florida Blue, UF Health Jacksonville and Brooks Rehabilitation who presented industry issues and entrepreneurial solutions such as care transition technologies, virtual care delivery in underserved communities and health care AI.
- Web3 Education – a four-week session that is designed to give small business owners insight into Web3 technology and a financial literacy of cryptocurrency and how to use it in their businesses. While there have been five pilot programs with entrepreneurs and school-aged children, the first program in the OIC will focus on women-owned businesses.
- JAX Bridges Entrepreneurial Program – an accelerator that helps small- and medium-sized business owners build strategy, gain access to capital and contract opportunities through education and training opportunities. To date, JAX Bridges has graduated more than 2,500 businesses from the program.
By early 2023, a pre-accelerator will also be launched at the center for businesses in the seed-idea stage but are not yet ready for the next phase of business viability process. Other forthcoming initiatives to take place at the center include structured coworking and innovation sprints.
“This is a state-of-the-art space where people can learn, collaborate and innovate and we can’t wait to see the work that comes out of here,” JAX Chamber Chief Innovation Officer Carlton Robinson said.
The Jacksonville region continues to provide a world-class innovation ecosystem for large and small tech companies. While the OIC will offer one-of-a-kind programs that aren’t in the Jacksonville region, and in some cases, in the world, it will complement efforts taking place at other area innovation spaces, such as Mayo Clinic Platform, the link and PS27 Ventures, among others.