NEI was originally formed during an unprecedented market decline with the broad and urgent mission to “return Detroit and the region to its position as a global economic leader.” Since then, the granting and convening strategy has been informed by its own work, and has evolved to a more focused agenda along the following path:
• Accelerate the Transition to an Innovation Based Economy: During a launch-and-learn
phase, we discovered early that the region had either forgotten or lost faith in its ability
to generate the ideas and businesses of tomorrow. Valuing and accelerating innovation
through an open invitation for concepts and proposals around “talent, innovation and
culture change" that provided an "opportunity for all" was part of our early work.
• The Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: During the launch-and-learn phase we discovered that
there already was an entrepreneurial ecosystem – individuals, initiatives, organizations
having anything to do with commercializing ideas and new companies – at play. It
was weak, it was disconnected, but the seeds of greater opportunity existed. Our work
at this time. revolved around learning more about that ecosystem and finding ways to
make it more robust, including through workforce development.
• Focusing on an Innovation District: Economists from Alfred Marshall to Michael Porter
to Paul Krugman have all espoused the value of how concentrated areas of business
activity lead to greater business development, and how the benefits of that concentration
radiate out to a much broader geography. For entrepreneurs in Southeast Michigan that
place, that Innovation District, already lies along a 3.5 mile corridor from Downtown to
New Center/North End. Our focus today is building that up to create a dense, vibrant
and connected area that increases entrepreneurial activity throughout the region. There’s
much to be done, but we have the assets to make it happen.
Feel free to join in on discussions on the NEI blog
to discuss and share your ideas with us.