As 2017 Innovation Week Birmingham comes to a close, Innovation Week partner the Birmingham Business Alliance’s CEO Brian Hilson, reflected on what the week meant to the Magic City and how celebrating it supports a sustainable innovation ecosystem.
How does your organization promote innovation in Birmingham?
Hilson: The Birmingham Business Alliance highlights innovation and technology in Birmingham, and supports workforce programs that assist in connecting tech talent to business leaders in search of high-demand jobs. Whether we are helping entrepreneurs unearth funding opportunities, or providing support for tech companies graduating from our world-class incubator, the Innovation Depot, the BBA strives to provide unique opportunities to emerging companies in the Magic City.
What aspects do you feel make Birmingham an innovative city?
Hilson: With its twin innovation engines, UAB and Southern Research, Birmingham has been a leader in innovation and technology for decades and over the past few years more people are starting to take note. Energized by the Southeast’s largest and globally recognized technology incubator, the Innovation Depot, and the more than 700 technology businesses that call the City home, Birmingham has become a destination for entrepreneurs looking to grow their technologies in a welcoming environment. We were pleased to be recognized by the White House in 2015 as a “TechHire” city, part of Washington’s initiative to assist in the creation of support programs, like computer-coding camps and online courses to attract, train, and retain more high-quality talent in Birmingham. In addition, unique startup competitions, like Alabama Launchpad, award entrepreneurs with infusions of cash and invaluable mentoring support. With such a diverse and rich pool of innovative resources to draw from, Birmingham is positioned to remain one of the top cities for technological advances and innovation in the U.S.
Why is it important to have a week that highlights innovation in Birmingham?
Hilson: Well to start with, innovation is a big part of Birmingham. From our history with steel and manufacturing, to the advanced manufacturing that’s happening today and the medical breakthroughs that are happening every day at UAB and Southern Research, innovation has always been a driver of our economy. With the various tech resources we have in the city, highlighting the entrepreneurs, inventors and business leaders that drive innovative is paramount. The week acts as a resource to remind the community of all that Birmingham has to offer and how they can get involved. It also shows future tech entrepreneurs across the country how they can take advantage of resources in Birmingham, and lets them know that we welcome innovation and entrepreneurs.