Two weeks ago today, the Raleigh Convention Center was home to about 250 people for the Raleigh Innovation Summit. Whenever I attend this type of event, I’m always looking for trends. Who attends? What topics are covered by the keynote speakers, and what topics are being discussed between the attendees during breaks? While this particular event focused primarily on the Triangle area, I’m seeing similar trends all over our state.
(A look at the crowd during the Raleigh Innovation Summit, September 11, 2013.)
Folks, I’ve got some good news for you. North Carolina is getting it. Innovation is for everyone. Innovation needs everyone to be involved. We’re building a culture and an ecosystem for innovation.
What I saw was a very diverse crowd of passionate individuals, coming together for a common goal. Everyone had something different to bring to the table, and everyone joined the conversation. The Summit does a great job at nurturing these conversations, and included a break-out brainstorming session with each table having very different people sitting and talking together. My table included a local economic development leader, an incubator program manager from NC State University (yep, that’s me), a job placement professional, three entrepreneurs with very different companies, a city councilmember, and a CEO of an established small business.
Innovation isn’t only about year-old start-up companies or the entrepreneur at the coffee shop hashing out software code for the next smartphone app. It’s also about established companies exploring new methods and trying new ideas. It’s about supporting those emerging technologies and early-stage entrepreneurs. It’s about schools partnering with economic development organizations and a strong collaboration between public and private entities. It’s about people looking to make something -- anything -- better than it is today, and being willing to embrace change and accept failure. And it’s about everyone coming together to create a supportive, innovative culture in our community.
It’s okay if you’re not sure how to get started on bringing an idea to life, or how to start building an innovative culture within your own department or organization. But you should know that there’s help out there and a place for everyone -- whether you’re a student, entrepreneur, or the floor manager at a large manufacturing plant. E-mail me at ashley_hudson AT ncsu.edu and I’ll be glad to point you in the right direction.
The past should be something that we build from, and learn from. Having an innovative culture doesn’t mean that everything old should be thrown out and replaced with something shiny and new. However, for most of us, gone are the days where lying low and relying on the familiar equates to career stability for ourselves or the success for the companies for which we work.
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Ashley Hudson is the Manager of the NC State University Technology Incubator. She connects Incubator clients with University support services and resources, and oversees day-to-day Incubator operations including business development, client relations, program marketing/communications, lease and office management, and facilities coordination. With a B.S. in media studies and communications from Radford University, Ashley has experience in program management, business development, marketing, event coordination, and property management. Ashley is a member of the National Business Incubation Association and is the President of the North Carolina Business Incubation Association. Connect with her on the Technology Incubator Facebook page or her LinkedIn page.