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Sacramento, Calif.'s Innovation Hub Finds New Life

When the Sacramento Regional Technology Alliance folded last fall, one effort the organization abandoned was the region’s state-designated innovation hub, called the iHub. Local stakeholders are now working to reinvigorate the region's innovation cluster.

by / August 5, 2016
The Sacramento iHub (shaded in lavender) encompasses seven counties.GO-Biz

When the Sacramento Regional Technology Alliance (SARTA) dissolved last year, one effort the organization abandoned was the region’s innovation hub, called the iHub. 

The Sacramento iHub is of one of 15 such clusters in California officially designated by the state. The program was started by the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) with the goal of fostering partnerships, economic development and job creation around specific regional areas of expertise.

SARTA was the lead partner of the Sacramento iHub. When SARTA disbanded, the iHub needed a new caretaker. Local innovation space I/O Labs stepped in to fill the void when in April it acquired some of SARTA former partner network and assets, including the iHub. The nonprofit arm of I/O Labs will become the new lead coordinator.

“The Sacramento iHub could be special, being in the state capital. I think we have the opportunity to be the hub that does some international outreach, and I do think there’s this larger spotlight shining on Sacramento as folks realize it has a great mixture of a startup environment that’s close to Silicon Valley, the Bay. But it’s new in its own right, which is fun,” said I/O Labs investor and partner Jan Roos, a Sacramento-area entrepreneur and attorney.

The last few months, Roos has been spearheading plans to reinvigorate Sacramento’s iHub, joined by several others, including former SARTA CEO Meg Arnold and Louis Stewart, GO-Biz deputy director for business strategy and innovation. They’ve convened meetings with co-working spaces, incubators, venture capitalists, UC Davis and Sacramento State, the Sacramento mayor’s innovation office, organizations such Valley Vision, and developers like the McClellan Business Park.

This week, for example, they hosted a meeting about how the Sacramento region can participate in the emerging industry of connected and autonomous vehicles. Activity seems to be heating up on a variety of fronts.

“They’re taking a really hard look at what sectors really need to be represented by Sacramento to begin telling a different story — getting away from [the region] just being about clean tech, med tech and ag tech,” Stewart said.

Big ideas are brewing. One potential opportunity is for the Sacramento iHub to form an innovation partnership with the region of Normandy, France, which itself has strong ties in agriculture, energy and clean tech. The partnership could potentially become a sister city type of arrangement, or it might be possible to send Sacramento-area startups to abroad in an exchange program, Roos said.

Roos and others also are looking at how to make the Sacramento iHub sustainable from a financial standpoint. The state government and GO-Biz don’t fund the innovation hubs, so it’s up to them to form partnerships and find sponsors. One emerging opportunity in the works, Stewart said, is for the Sacramento iHub and the state’s other innovation hubs to utilize federal funding for a cybersecurity supply chain study, through which the iHubs will have a chance to participate in an innovation voucher program where they can help small businesses beef up their cybersecurity.

“As is so often the case in the startup world, it’s sort of a labor of love and a bit of collaboration,” Roos said about the iHub program. “Right now the program is taking shape in some cool ways that are pretty much a first for the Sacramento region.”

This article was originally published on TechWire.

Matt Williams Contributing Writer

Matt Williams was previously the news editor of Govtech.com, and is now a contributor to Government Technology and Public CIO magazines. He also previously served as the managing editor of TechWire, a sister publication to Government Technology.2