Riverside California’s Innovation District: How it Joins Entrepreneurship, Employment, Entertainment and Housing?

By: Sharjeel Sohaib


Oct 29, 2021


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Entrepreneurship, employment, entertainment, and housing are all in one place. This is the vision for Riverside’s Innovation District.

The idea behind Riverside Innovation District is to make the most of the existing assets in the City to attract private investment and make the county a hub for startups and entrepreneurs.

image 9
Source: City Council, Riverside

We have covered it in our Weekly Wire Roundup

1. Four Institutions of Higher Education

  • University of California, Riverside
  • Riverside Community College
  • California Baptist University
  • La Sierra University

Four higher-education institutions in Riverside play a vital role in creating and sustaining the innovation economy. The Brookings Institution calls these ‘research-oriented anchor institutions.

2. A Primer on Innovation Districts

According to Brookings Institution, innovation districts are “dense enclaves that merge the innovation and employment potential of research-oriented anchor institutions, high-growth firms, and tech and creative startups in well-designed, amenity-rich residential and commercial environments.”

Source: Brookings: The rise of innovation districts: A new geography of innovation

To understand the concept of an innovation district, the definition of an ‘economic asset’ by the Brookings Institution comes in handy.

Economic assets are the firms, institutions, and organizations that drive, cultivate or support an innovation-rich environment. Economic assets can be separated into three categories:

  • Innovation drivers
  • Innovation cultivators
  • Neighborhood-building amenities
  • Physical assets
  • Networking assets

An example that Brookings Institute cites is that of ‘Kendall Square.’

image 12
Source: Brookings Institution

(a) Entrepreneurship and Employment

Coming back to Riverside Innovation District, the plan includes running a hybrid electric bus on University Avenue, close to UCR’s Center for Environmental Research and Technology, also called the Innovation Corridor.

The corridor will help Riverside to become a smart city in the future.

(b) Entertainment

Metro gateway is another plan by the Riverside government. It provides 187 new homes located near the train station.

(c) Housing

SolarMax, a renewable energy solutions company, is creating an energy ecosystem by attracting housing companies like SunSpark, one of the leading U.S. solar panel manufacturers.

All Riverside downtown projects featuring retail and living spaces are within walking distance of 50k jobs in Riverside’s urban core.

3. How to Grow Innovation Districts?

The Riverside Innovation District is far from ideal, partly due to the overall economic profile of the region. However, there are ideas as to how local leaders and business people can further grow the innovation district.

  • Build a collaborative leadership network
  • Set a vision for growth
  • Pursue talent and technology
  • Promote inclusive growth
  • Enhance access to capital 

Source: Brookings Institution

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