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Participants from around the region gathered at Vanderbilt University Feb. 9–10 for the formal initiation of the National Science Foundation Mid-South Innovation Corps Hub. The two-day summit included a convocation, a venture showcase and a reception for hub partners and regional dignitaries.
Vanderbilt is leading the hub, which plans to focus on inclusive and collaborative innovation. Its goals are to help the outcomes of groundbreaking university research translate more quickly into the commercial marketplace and to foster a prosperous ecosystem for innovation across the Midsouth.
Spanning four states, the hub includes participants from Vanderbilt University, University of Virginia, Jackson State University, George Mason University, Meharry Medical College, Tennessee State University, University of Louisville, University of Tennessee, Knoxville and University of Kentucky.
Convocation speakers included Padma Raghavan, vice provost for research and innovation, Charleson Bell, NSF I-Corp Hub director and director of entrepreneurship and biomedical innovation at the Wond’ry, Deanna Meador, hub lead instructor and Wond’ry deputy director, and David Owens, Wond’ry executive director and hub lead faculty.
The Venture Summit displayed deep technologies developed by hub participants—examples ranged from medical tech, AI-based solutions and energy technologies to beauty products, jewelry and sustainable agriculture products. The convocation included a “Provision of the Heirlooms” processional featuring 3D-printed objects that represent intrinsic values of each participating institution. These objects were produced in honor of the first time these institutions have come together in the shared vision of inclusive prosperity across the region.
Hosted by The Wond’ry, Vanderbilt’s Innovation Center, the Vanderbilt Innovation Council and several student organizations, including the Vanderbilt Innovation and Entrepreneurship Society, Change++, Vandy Blockchain and Theta Tau, attendees included chancellors and vice provosts at hub universities and policymakers and community leaders from across Tennessee, including Ralph Schulz, president and CEO of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Bradley Jackson, president and CEO of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and representatives from the office of U.S. Rep. Mark Green (TN-7th District).
Bell highlighted a section of the hub Constitution, which was authorized and ratified at the convocation:
Significant events or movements that have had major historical, sociopolitical, or technological impacts on America have either centered on or permeated across the region that we define here as the Mid-South. A region of historical innovation in trade, transportation, agriculture, and energy, the Mid-South has influenced the surrounding regions of the country, from the Northeast and the Atlantic to the Midwest and Deep South. At the intersection of the American “North” and “South,” the Mid-South has been a region of both sociopolitical and technological heterogenization. In the 1850s, railway innovation united the Mid-South stretching through Virginia to Tennessee, into the Heartland and down to Mississippi. During the Antebellum era, a metaphorical railway stretched across the Mid-South, the Underground Railroad, where a network of altruists united in an effort to secretly aid, guide, and transport the enslaved to freedom. This movement culturally shifted the outcomes of the oppressed, impoverished, and disadvantaged while shifting the sociopolitical future of both the region and the Nation.
An evolution of the socioeconomic and technopolitical movements of the past, both physical and metaphorical, the Mid-South Hub shall bring evidence-based entrepreneurial training, professional development, and the power of technological innovation to all stakeholders.
We the Esteemed Institutions of the Mid-South Innovation Hub, hailing from Disparate locations within the Mid-South region, do assemble into a Consortium of Diverse, deep technology-producing Institutions of Higher Education, in Order to leverage Programmatic investments, catalyze Technological Commercialization, spur Economic Development, inform the Future of Inclusive American Innovation, and galvanize Shared Prosperity across our region and beyond into perpetuity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the Mid-South Innovation Hub.