UMN Twin Cities Innovation District FAQs

UMN Twin Cities Innovation District FAQs

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What is an innovation district?

An innovation district is a geographically focused hub of economic and social activity, often near a research university, where innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity, and placemaking intersect. Notable and successful examples include the CORTEX Innovation Community associated with Washington University in St. Louis, the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, and the University of Pennsylvania City District in Philadelphia. The University of Minnesota seeks to create an innovation district that emulates and expands on the success of these other districts while focusing on its unique strengths, features, and geography.

What’s the vision for the University of Minnesota’s innovation district?

Our vision for place-based innovation is to bring together industry, government, capital, community, digital infrastructure, and the University and other research institutions to create a new hub for discovery in the region. We envision unprecedented collaboration between public and private sectors, matching the University’s cutting-edge research enterprise with real world challenges in a virtuous cycle of discovery that advances knowledge and grows the economy. As with other successful innovation districts, its location in a vibrant and thriving urban setting will make it a destination development and appeal especially to younger generations.

Where will it be?

The University of Minnesota’s first innovation district will be on a 12-acre site at the eastern edge of the Minneapolis Twin Cities East Bank campus. Already, innovation-focused facilities such as those in the Biomedical Discovery District have given the area a reputation as a home for groundbreaking research. Nearby landmarks are Huntington Bank Stadium and the McNamara Alumni Center. This is an area that is alive with social activity and just steps from some of the most important research and scholarship happening anywhere in the country.

What will it include?

When complete, the project will feature approximately three million developed square feet with a variety of uses, including research and development (R&D), particularly for medicine and life sciences, meeting/conference space, multifamily residential, hospitality, restaurant, entertainment, and similar destination spaces.

Facilities geared toward business interests include:

  • Labs, featuring leading-edge technology and equipment
  • Offices and meeting spaces to support in-person and hybrid work models
  • Auditorium and conference spaces to host industry gatherings
  • Talent development space, especially for students, with a focus on entrepreneurism
  • “Collision” and informal meeting spaces (hospitality and public realm)

Why is this development important?

This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to use real estate to drive a convergence of public and private entities. This development will combine the idea-generation and research success of the University with the experience and expertise of industry in scaling and commercializing innovations. To solve some of the biggest issues facing us, we need unprecedented collaborative opportunities to build a better future.

How can companies benefit?

Industry partners who take advantage of opportunities in the innovation district can expect a unique set of benefits to help grow their business. 


1. Proximity to world-class researchers and facilities

This development puts companies alongside some of the world’s most talented researchers and problem-solvers. The research specialties available to industry will be curated according to the University’s strongest programs.


2. Potential for R&D partnerships

This proximity gives companies a powerful new partner for their R&D efforts. And partnership is key, because the University’s expertise in developing promising ideas needs industry’s expertise in bringing them to market to truly effect the positive change and growth we all envision.


3. Access to future workforce

This location also provides access to tens of thousands of undergraduate and graduate students who will graduate with a high-quality education and will be looking to work for top local companies. They will be an integral part of the community that grows up around this development, whether by working and researching in the space, or by taking advantage of the neighborhood amenities.


4. Sense of community and belonging

For employees who work out of these facilities, it will feel like much more than a workplace. Interesting shops and restaurants, as well as year-round programming will help attract talent and make people look forward to coming to work in a vibrant, diverse community.


How can I learn more about the project?

Corporate leaders interested in learning more about how this place-based innovation initiative could advance their business can send an email to [email protected] and a Corporate Engagement Center contact will respond promptly.