Regional Partners Respond to Brookings Report

Capturing the Next Economy: Pittsburgh’s Rise as a Global Innovation City


Leaders of a number of Pittsburgh’s major institutions welcomed a new report issued by the Brookings Institution, endorsing the study’s conclusion that a university-led collaborative effort to boost the city’s innovation ecosystem could help ensure Pittsburgh’s role as a world-class hub linking research, technology, entrepreneurship and job growth.

With the generous support of The Heinz Endowments and the Henry L. Hillman Foundation, Brookings undertook an 18-month study that examines Pittsburgh’s innovation economy. The result, Capturing the Next Economy: Pittsburgh’s Rise as a Global Innovation City, makes recommendations including further support for innovation clusters, for the Oakland innovation district, for entrepreneurship with the potential to create new jobs, and for workforce development to train employees who will flourish in a tech-driven economy.

The University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University – along with partners including Allegheny County, the City of Pittsburgh, The Heinz Endowments, the Henry L. Hillman Foundation, and UPMC – agreed to work together in coming months and years to lead implementation of the recommendations in the report, with a focus on connecting existing assets across Pittsburgh’s innovation ecosystem, and bolstering and marketing Pittsburgh’s emerging Innovation District—in Oakland and around the city—as a destination for technology-based companies large and small. 

The Brookings effort engaged individuals, businesses, and innovative organizations throughout the region through interviews and focused working sessions, and laid the groundwork for partnerships that will catalyze implementation of the report’s findings. These institutions include Avenu, The Allegheny Conference, Catalyst Connection, Fourth Economy, Innovation Works, Partner4Work, the Pittsburgh Life Science Greenhouse, the Pittsburgh Technology Council, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, and others. In alignment with the report and its recommendations, several of these organizations are announcing new commitments and initiatives today.

  • Innovation Works is creating a corporate engagement program that will benefit startups and larger companies alike.  Startups can gain access to mentorship, discounted products and first customer opportunities while larger corporations can benefit by having access to cutting-edge technologies, new customers and investment opportunities.
  • Catalyst Connection is announcing their newest initiative the Making Your Future campaign, a venture of the Greater Pittsburgh Metals Manufacturing Community, to connect “makers” to regional manufacturing jobs through career awareness, maker spaces, additive manufacturing (3D printing) and networking with employers to help close gaps in the existing workforce.
  • Carlow University, Carnegie Mellon University, Chatham University, and University of Pittsburgh are collaborating with the Community College of Allegheny County, Partner4Work, and the Pittsburgh Council for Higher Education to launch a workforce development initiative aimed at serving disenfranchised populations in neighborhoods proximate to the Forbes/Fifth corridor.   

“The Brookings Report, in its most basic form, is a call to action. It's a challenge, aimed directly at the city's great research institutions. Simply put, it’s asking us—CMU, Pitt, and our partner, UPMC—to be the engine of economic growth for the region,” said Patrick Gallagher, Chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh. “This is a challenge we gladly accept. Our focus now turns to helping our many local partners connect to this powerful engine of growth in a meaningful way to transform the Pittsburgh area. We can't wait to get started."

“The Brookings Institution report makes it clear that Pittsburgh possesses incredible momentum and all the right ingredients to become the global leader in innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity,” said Farnam Jahanian, Interim President of Carnegie Mellon University. “With our singular expertise in creating cutting-edge technologies, and applying them to humanity’s most pressing issues, Carnegie Mellon is eager to join our partners across Pittsburgh to advance the report’s recommendations. With this unified approach, we will continue to leverage the city’s diverse strengths to attract global resources and fully maximize our capacity for innovation and economic development.”

“Pittsburgh is potentially on the cusp of a new and vibrant era of economic development that exploits our unique position nationally and globally as a leading hub of innovation and entrepreneurship especially in the fields of robotics, life sciences and advanced manufacturing,” said Grant Oliphant, President with The Heinz Endowments.  “This is an exhilarating time for our region, but we must be mindful of the challenges we face to ensure that everyone is able to benefit from the opportunities that are being created, and that as a community we work collaboratively and inclusively to make that possible through the creation of robust workforce development programs.”

“It’s easy to think of Pittsburgh’s reinvention from a Rust Belt city to a modern innovation hub as though it’s a box that’s been checked off,” said David K. Roger, President of the Henry L. Hillman Foundation.  “Reinvention, though, is not a singular event—it’s a continuous process marked mostly by a change in the way we think about ourselves.  Our future growth and success is completely dependent on our city’s and the surrounding metropolitan area’s ability to adapt to fast-changing economic and social conditions in an ever more connected world.  The Brookings Institution’s report released today provides us with critical data and valuable insights on our unique strengths and opportunities that will help us build an even stronger, more competitive regional economy in which everyone can participate.” 

“At UPMC, innovation is at the very heart of our life-changing science and medicine,” said Jeffrey Romoff, CEO of UPMC. “The Brookings Institution’s study is a timely reminder that western Pennsylvania’s continued revitalization is not guaranteed. It requires urgency, focus and significant investment in the innovations that will shape our future. UPMC is committed to working with like-minded partners to make this vision a reality for the communities we serve.”

This report comes at a time of great momentum for the Pittsburgh region, and especially for its innovation economy:

  • In January 2017, the Department of Defense selected as its new Manufacturing USA institute Pittsburgh’s Advanced Robotics Manufacturing Institute, an independent entity created by Carnegie Mellon and supported by $253 million in public and private investment.
  • In February 2017, Ford Motor Co. announced it would invest $1 billion over five years into Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based artificial intelligence start-up founded by CMU alumni and former staff of the National Robotics Engineering Center.
  • Philips recently entered into a relationship with the University of Pittsburgh to collaborate on developing talent, addressing healthcare challenges, and commercializing technology. In August, one hundred Philips employees moved into the sleep and respiratory equipment maker's new “innovation center,” at Schenley Place in Oakland. The 14,000-square foot office will put Philips’ team closer to fellow innovators.
  • In October 2016, the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University co-hosted the White House Frontiers Conference, featuring President Barack Obama and drawing hundreds of leaders in science, technology and business from around the nation.
  • The Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance, created in 2015 by UPMC, CMU and Pitt, has funded more than a dozen projects through UPMC Enterprises aimed at building new regional companies that create data-intensive software and services, with the potential to revolutionize health care and wellness.

The Brookings report highlighted those efforts and many other recent successes as evidence that Pittsburgh has the world-class research and entrepreneurship talent needed to become a global innovation leader. The next step, according the report, is to build the infrastructure needed to translate those breakthroughs into a lasting and self-sustaining innovation economy that drives job growth and increased investment.


Vera Krekanova Krofcheck, Chief Strategy Officer | (412) 552-7095

Catalyst Connection
Tom Reed, Director of Communications | (412) 918-4269

Innovation Works
Terri Glueck, Director, Community Development & Communications | (412) 681-1520