A profile on Katy Boren and the Innovation District written for the Oklahoma Venture Forum on the subject of Connecting Assets in the Innovation District.

In April 2017, The Bookings Institution released a report based on an 18-month study about how the area now known as the Innovation District was ripe for an innovation district. The information inspired Katy Boren to start The Innovation District, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

“There are innovation districts across the globe, certainly across the country, and Brookings did an assessment,” said Katy Boren, Founder/CEO of The Innovation District. “What Brookings kind of foreshadowed was the success we could have if we focused on creating an ecosystem in Oklahoma City around our knowledge-based economies, STEM economies, that would make us more competitive nationally and globally.”

The borders of the Innovation District are 4th Street to 13th Street, Lottie to the east, and Robinson to the west, with the core being Harrison and 10th, right next to the Beacon of Hope in Stiles Park. Since the district sits in Northeast Oklahoma City, Boren is connected to the neighborhoods in big and small ways, from volunteering to co-programming.

“We are also working hard to make sure that as jobs are created out of this initiative in these next few years, residents of Northeast Oklahoma City are in the pipeline for STEM careers,” said Boren. “That’s working with K through 12, working with adult workforce for upskilling and reskilling, but really focusing some of our efforts to make sure that everyone benefits from this economic growth.”

One of Boren’s missions for the district is creating an ecosystem to strengthen the city’s STEM economies, making Oklahoma City more competitive. 

“Everyone was working in silos inside universities, inside enterprise-level industry businesses, and entrepreneurs had a lot of resources here but could have even more, so pulling all of those assets that we have together, and convening them in different ways,” said Boren. “For example, we have 120 post-docs doing research in our physical area here. About 78% of all NIH funding for the state comes to this physical area as well, and so we have a lot of really great things happening in academics and research, which is where entrepreneurs and investors want to be, and in the industry as well, and so we have a great recipe.”

The Innovation District hosts over 50 events a year, despite not having a building of their own yet. Construction is set to begin in April, and Boren said they will do even more programming and convening of people and ideas. People can get involved by visiting the website okcinnovation.com.

Katy Boren will be presenting at the Oklahoma Venture Forum Power Lunch on Wednesday, March 9, 2022. The event will be open to guests both in-person and virtually via ZOOM. 

“Our outcomes are determined by how much people participate,” said Boren. “The more ideas we get and the more vision we have from the network and the ecosystem, it creates a better outcome.”

Listen to the interview I had with Katy Boren on The Podcast Starts Now, an exclusive podcast for my supporters on Patreon.