Lessons from #GLIDEToronto On Thinking Big: Out of this World Innovation

The KIX team has the privilege of traveling this week with GLIDE, which stands for Greater Louisville Idea Development Expedition. This is a remarkable group of engaged community leaders from our region and we’re visiting a place that clearly thinks big.

Yesterday we took a trip to MaRS, and no, we didn’t leave planet earth! We stayed right here Toronto.

The MaRS Centre – in the heart of Canada’s largest city, TorontoMaRS was an idea that started in 2000 when a group of visionary leaders and organizations asked the question — Is there a better way to capture the commercial potential of Toronto’s $1 billion in annual science and technology research spending?

The answer was “Yes.”

And it was all about a having a space in the city dedicated to innovation – where ideas are cultivated and inventions are commercialized.

But what began as Medical and Related Sciences (“MaRS”) became much more, no longer an acronym but rather a physical place, an organization, and for that matter, a virtual space where not only science and technology but also social entrepreneurs get the help they need.

It is where all kinds of people meet to spark new ideas. And where a global reputation for innovation is being earned, one success story at a time.

The MaRS Centre is in the Discovery District, between the country’s leading teaching hospitals and three major universities, minutes from Canada’s financial center, and steps from provincial and city governments.

The 700,000 square foot mix of heritage and modern architecture has lab facilities and offices; event venues and meeting places; incubator space and retail services and that mix is no accident. MaRS CEO, Dr. Ilse Treurnicht explained that for MaRS to build Canada’s next generation of growth companies it could NOT just be a space for inventors. She said “you have to everyone in the innovation pipeline together” – start-ups, mid-size companies and multinationals, investors, researchers and community developers, professional service firms and retailers.

Can we replicate a concept like this in our region? There are people and organizations working to make that dream a reality – look no further than Nucleus in Louisville and the Mid America Science Park Scottsburg, Indiana.

So the question really is — how can we help them succeed and help our region be a place where imaginations and individuals thrive?

After today’s experience the GLIDE Toronto group will no doubt come back ready to dig in and do their part.