Last month we officially opened our new Center for Innovation. This is something I have been working on for quite a while and I can’t tell you how exciting it was to finally stand in the new space and share our vision for what it will one day become.
The new facility was renovated with the specific purpose of bringing together the nonprofit, for-profit and government sectors to facilitate innovation and entrepreneurism. These three sectors are the drivers of our region’s economy and each have their own inherent strengths. At the Center, those strengths can be shared and reimagined by others to solve problems and discover opportunities.
This represents a major commitment on our part to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship. More and more of the U.S. workforce is shifting to self-employment while on the other side employers are more actively seeking graduates with creativity, drive and the capacity to understand and improve processes. The world needs more innovators.
I like to use the example of Uber. Love them or hate them, Uber is a fascinating business model worth studying. They are the world’s largest taxi company and yet they own no vehicles. They didn’t invent taxi service or GPS or ratings systems either, and yet they found a way to connect all three and create a much-valued service for customers. They now operate in 66 countries and serve over 40 million riders each month.
Closer to home, the City of Tallahassee Utilities’ Smart Grid Project has networked electric, gas and water meters so that customers can monitor their own usage on the web or via in-home displays, and the utility company can, for example, pinpoint an outage to improve repair times and customer service. And all of this is done without sending trucks or staff into the field. Again, CoT didn’t invent networking devices or home automation or even website interfaces, but they did bring them together to modernize our City’s infrastructure and improve efficiency.
A few years from now I see the Center for Innovation as a go-to place for creative thinkers from all three sectors generating solutions just like these. I see our role at TCC less about inventing or patenting new things, and more about rethinking what already exists and stimulating ideas to create new solutions and new opportunities. I would like to see for-profits learning from nonprofits and vice-versa, and government thinking more entrepreneurially. We have already embraced this here at the College with projects like our forestry management at the Florida Public Safety Institute or the new Starbucks at the Center. While many may associate the word entrepreneurship with business or private sector, at TCC we think it also means thinking outside of the box to create opportunities for our students.
I believe that if you allow people the opportunity to thrive and create, they will shine. With the right facility, the right programs, the right people, and technology as our bridge, we can break down silos and do something special. I am looking forward to seeing one day what new and inspired things will happen because of our work here.