About the Innovation Project
Much of today’s successful economic growth hinges on attracting or cultivating jobs that characterize the “innovation economy”—firms and occupations relying on talented workers whose skills are based on significant knowledge, insight and creativity. Innovation-based economic growth in rural America, however, has long lagged that in the nation’s metropolitan areas.
To address this gap, the U.S. Economic Development Administration sponsored this project to develop new tools to support strategic economic development planning in rural regions. The goal of this work is to help rural planners assess their region’s comparative strengths and weaknesses with respect to fostering innovation-based growth. The project's data and tools, however, can be used equally well in any type of region—urban, exurban, metropolitan or custom-based depending upon need and purpose.
The project team has developed three sets of tools for this purpose, tested and refined in collaboration with stakeholders in four rural regions around the nation. The tools, available on this website, include:
- An Innovation Index reflecting a region’s innovation activity and capacity, together with an interactive database containing the index and its component indicators for every county in the nation.
- Data on 15 knowledge-based occupation clusters and 17 industry clusters, also contained in this interactive database.
- Analytical tools to help regional planners evaluate public investment decisions in support of economic growth.
The Rural Innovation team brought together academic and private-sector researchers with regional leaders in government, business and education to carry out this project. The partner organizations include:
- Purdue Center for Regional Development at Purdue University
- Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business
- Strategic Development Group, Inc.
- Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc.
- Center for Regional Competitiveness at the University of Missouri’s Rural Policy Research Institute.
Significant funding was also provided by the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs.