INNOVATION on Tap
An economic powerhouse a century ago, like many Rust Belt cities St. Louis and its formidable brick-and-mortar industrial buildings have since slipped from prominence as the global economy shifted the
centers of manufacturing overseas.
Now innovation and collaboration are the coins of the realm, and St.
Louis is poised to capitalize through a couple of bold incubators focusing
on the biomedical and agricultural science and research industries.
Cortex Innovation Community
Founded in 2001, the nonprofit Cortex Innovation Community serves as the
brain center of this transformation.
“We had these great assets for 100 years but weren’t leveraging them—
now we are,” said Ben Johnson, vice president, programs for BioSTL, an
organization developed to champion St. Louis’ nascent bioscience research
effort. “There’s a perception of St. Louis as an old, dying Rest Belt City.
We’ve never done a good job of showing people how things have changed.”
And changing they are. If you’ve used the anti-inflammatory drug
Celebrex to treat your arthritis, you have the bioscience incubator at Cortex,
where it was developed before going to market, to thank.
The first building in the Cortex district was opened in 2004, and now
the area spreads out over 200 acres of former factory land and boasts $1
billion in residential development surrounding it, according to Johnson.
Cortex is also attracting ancillary businesses such as restaurants to serve
the area, with rumors of a new Aloft hotel also afoot.
The primary facilities in Cortex include the following:
❚ CET St. Louis (Center for Emerging Technologies), which provides
infrastructure and resources for bioscience, IT and other startups.
❚ BioGenerator, a nonprofit subsidiary of BioSTL that currently supports
more than 60 startups that cycle in and out starting at the beginning
of a bioscience products lifecycle, sharing a communal laboratory.
❚ CIC St. Louis, a co-working
environment that serves
startups in fields such as
p.r., legal and academic,
among others, with 32,000
square feet of space and
the Innovation Hall, with
a capacity for 100 that
could make for a good
off-site breakout space for
convening in St. Louis.
❚ Venture Cafe St. Louis, a
nonprofit organization that fosters collaboration of innovators in a
variety of industries.
❚ TechShop, an open-access DIY workshop and fabrication studio that
provides access to instructional classes, events that bring innovators
together to collaborate and both tech and traditional tools such as a
machine shop to facilitate production.
And even new “legacy” companies are starting to set up a major presence in Cortex, with Microsoft planning to open its Mid-America Division
headquarters in a new building there.
The end result is positioning the grande dame of the Mississippi, St.
Louis, for the future, attracting the best and the brightest to innovate in
an environment where one may run across massive industrial boilers from
early in the last century, but which are now used only as a design element
in a repurposed former factory.
“This has been a sustained commitment for 15 years,” Johnson said.
“We’re transforming an economy. We’re building an industry. This is a
Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Founded by an heir of St. Louis legacy company Ralston Purina and supported
by yet another local legacy company, Monsanto, via a land donation, the
Donald Danforth Plant Science Center supports
20 agricultural science teams with more than 150
scientists from more than 22 countries. This center
of innovation, located on the outskirts of St. Louis,
specializes in bio-engineering with a mission to “im-
prove the human condition through plant science.”
Wandering through the 40-acre facility—plans
are afoot for a nearly 600-acre innovation district
surriounding it—the center’s many laboratories and
greenhouses focus on increasing crop yield and ex-
ploring alternative fuel options that may be provided
by plants. The Danforth Center, which selected St.
Louis following a bid process primarily because the area boasts approximately
750 people with plant science Ph.D.s, also rents space for external users.
“Forty-five percent of our research goes to developing countries,” said
Karla Roeber, vice president, public and government affairs for the Donald
Danforth Plant Science Center, during a tour of the grounds.
For more information:
Cortex Innovation Community: http://cortexstl.com
Donald Danforth Plant Science Center: www.danforthcenter.org
CORTEX INNOVATION COMMUNITY
DONALD DANFORTH PLANT SCIENCE CENTER
stadium. We can seat up to 35,000 people
for a general session,” Hall said of the former home of the NFL Rams, now named
The Dome at America’s Center.
“We have a host of new food options
right outside of our doors,” he contin-
ued, “ranging from barbecue to Italian to
American continental, and the majority
of the restaurants in immediate proximity
to America’s Center are one-of-a-kind
St. Louis offers 7,000 hotel rooms downtown, with many close to America’s Center.
“We have a fantastic assortment of both
Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark
branded and independent hotel rooms,”
Hall said. “Many of the hotels in downtown
St. Louis have experienced recent improve-
ments, including the Marriott St. Louis
Grand, the St. Louis Union Station Hotel and
the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch, and
we have a couple of new entrants, including
the Magnolia Hotel St. Louis boutique hotel
just steps from the America’s Center and the
Courtyard St. Louis Downtown/Convention
Center, which is immediately adjacent to the
Select hotels toured on our visit to St.
Louis included the following.
This 670-room property across the street
from Busch Stadium features 45,000 square
feet of meeting space that can host up to
1,460 attendees. Prime offerings include
close proximity to St. Louis Ballpark Village, with its scores of restaurants, bars and
entertainment options, and its 360 Rooftop
Bar at Hilton Ballpark, a 6,000-square-foot
AMERICA’S CENTER CONVENTION COMPLEX