Developed primarily through public-private partnerships, the UT Innovation District will facilitate co-ops and internships, encourage ideas, create new educational experiences, further technology, and foster explorations and investigations. The university-industry collaborations will build on the university’s commitment to student success designing creative solutions that many growth sectors throughout the Intermountain West region encounter. These relationships will also enable the university and industry partners to open new career paths for students while providing a skilled workforce for changing industry needs, thereby contributing to regional economic development. Integration of the university’s start-up, incubator, and accelerator elements, tech transfer can enhance translational pieces and interdisciplinary collaborations in ways that reflect the multiple intersecting growth sectors that support Utah’s Southwest regional innovation economy.
To fulfill the university’s mission as a regional center for innovation and entrepreneurship, UT launched the Innovation Guidance and Solutions Center (IGSC) in the fall of 2016 and the Atwood Innovation Plaza (AIP) in 2018. Since its opening, IGSC has produced over 220 patent applications from students, faculty, staff, and community members, while more than 50 businesses have been grown hrough the AIP Incubator. Demand for space and resources at Atwood Innovation Plaza currently outpaces supply and the decision was made in 2021 to explore an expansion of AIP through the creation of a new “Innovation District,” to be located within the recently purchased 183-acre UT “Desert Color” Campus (DCC – name TBD).
Julie Wagner and Bruce Katz from the Brookings Institute defined an Innovation District in the landmark 2014 report The Rise of Innovation Districts. “These districts, by our definition, are geographic areas where leading-edge anchor institutions and companies cluster and connect with start-ups, business incubators and accelerators.”
What is an Innovation District
They are areas where leading-edge anchor institutions and companies cluster and connect with start-ups, business incubators, and accelerators. Three broad assets are blended in an Innovation District to create a vibrant innovation and business development ecosystem, including physical, economic, and networking assets. An Innovation District is designed to promote a high level of interaction and connectivity within a compact area. Through deliberate planning, it facilitates accidental business collisions and serendipitous collaborations. This is known as bumpability™. (Dr. Wayne Provost, Mr. Jeffrey Stewart, and Mr. Wyatt Anderson have trademarked the term bumpability™.)
As noted by RTI International, an Innovation Ecosystem is “The foundation of an innovation district, and understanding the former is essential to understand the value of the latter. Innovation ecosystems are networks of organizations and people that interact to cultivate ideas into successful enterprises. Like natural, biological ecosystems, they consist of many different moving parts—universities and research institutes, human capital, information technology infrastructure, financial capital, private sector, and government.”
The 183 acres of the Utah Tech University Desert Color Campus is an elongated strip of land at the corner of River Road and the Southern Parkway (See the light blue plot of land). It is south of the Career and Technical High School (slated to open August 2023) and across the road, northeast of an undeveloped portion of the Desert Color neighborhood. The acquisition of the 183-acre property came about a few years ago as the “Dixie Campus” is nearly at capacity. This ~110-acre space has nowhere to expand; it is landlocked by the surrounding neighborhood and typography. Moreover, academic expansion and programming are key. The main campus has taken decades to build; there has been facility creation acceleration since Utah Tech received university status.
Following the purchase of the Desert Color property, a visioning process was launched in the fall of 2021 by assembling information about the history, purpose, and activities that characterize an “Innovation District” into a visioning document. This booklet has been distributed to university, city, county, industry officials, and regional stakeholders to gather feedback about the need, viability, and general nature of the proposed district. The positive response and valuable feedback from these discussions prompted the launch of a formal planning process.
Planning Subcommittee Members
- Utah Tech University
- Washington County
- City of St. George
- Dixie Power
- St. George Economic Development
- Former State Representative
- Desert Color
- Precision Genomics
- Rocky Vista University
- World Trade Center Utah
- Dixie Technical College
- Intermountain Health
- St. George Chamber of Commerce
- Tech Ridge
A formal planning process for an proposed Innovation District was launched in the fall of 2022 with the goal of producing this comprehensive planning document. A comprehensive plan aims to provide the framework for a possible Innovation District as one component of the Desert Color Campus Master Plan to be created in fall 2023. The delivery date for the comprehensive plan is slated no later than June 1, 2023.
Role of Partner Organizations