A follow-up to The First Brick in Dayton's Innovation District, describing the progress of the Wright Brothers Institute - Air Force Research Laboratory's progress in Downtown Dayton.
Anchor Institutions with the Right Foundation for Innovation
To enjoy the greatest impact on innovation, all participants in a business and technology ecosystem must understand that they all have value. More importantly, they need a neutral space to exchange that value...build relationships and establish trust. Often times, that is easier said than done. The Air Force Research Laboratory, embedded at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has been cloaked in mystery. This barricaded physical location creates a cultural phenomenon that wisely secures the nations research and development investment, but also results in a mysticism that leaves many in the surrounding community feeling disconnected. This disconnection may be responsible for missed innovation opportunities for the Air Force and the region's economy. To increase innovation for AFRL and the region, designing the right environment - from the beginning - was critical to success.
As organizations work to become or remain relevant and meaningful, rethinking the workplace can support, inspire and enable innovation. - Steelcase: How Workspace Design Fosters Innovation
Transparency Fosters the Ease of Connection
When the Wright Brothers Institute-Air Force Research Laboratory Partnership set out to stake a claim at 444 E. 2nd Street in Downtown Dayton in February of 2017, the space had to encompass human-centered design in order to facilitate new relationships. Space for spontaneous collisions. Space for intentional collaboration. Space for video conferencing. Space for presentations. A neutral space that makes it easy for AFRL scientists and engineers to find connections with entrepreneurs and startups. Connections with established Anchor Institutions in the Dayton region. As these connections build, trust is increased and innovation accelerates.
Chance encounters and interactions between knowledge workers improve performance. - Harvard Business Review
Proximity to the Right Partners
Each of Wright Brothers Institute's locations is about the proximity to the right collaborative partners. For example, the 2nd Street location is about collaborative opportunities with entrepreneurs, startup companies and other Anchor Institutions, while the Springfield Street location (just outside of WPAFB) attracts prime contractors, academic institutions and other government agencies. In order to differentiate the 2nd Street location from Wright Brothers Institute's other facilities, a more open and inclusive layout was created. An open concept lessens the frequency of closed-door meetings and encourages a feeling of transparency for the community.
View the slideshow to see how the space is configured.
Agility is Crucial
As the experiment to build an Innovation District, with AFRL as an Anchor Institution continues, the need for larger space may be necessary. The Downtown revival is gaining momentum every week with buzz around new construction, housing tours and live|work|play options that are attracting new businesses to the area. The key is to remain agile and evolve with the growth of the Innovation District.