How can CLiGS become an innovation community?

Virginia Tech Research Center, Arlington, Virginia, dawn, full moon, exterior

By: Michael J. Mortimer

What is an “innovation space?” How does it differ from a “collaboration place”? What do these and similar initiatives have to do with sustainable development? An interdisciplinary team of faculty and graduate students from the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability (CLiGS) are currently exploring answers to these and related research and development questions.

Two graduate students in the Executive Master of Natural Resources (XMNR) program, Punita Khoustubhan and Dolores Schroeder, have been leading the project. Schroeder is a commercial real estate lawyer and accredited green building professional with extensive international development experience. Khoustubhan is an aquatic biologist with extensive experience in managing collaborative research facilities and an associate of Except.

Inspired by our students’ enthusiasm and their initial findings, CLiGS administrators have begun to ask whether or not CLiGS should consider joining one of these networks, perhaps even starting our own innovation community in the Washington, DC metro region—with a local to global reach.

We recently visited 1776 near our home-base at the Virginia Tech Research Center in Arlington. Associate Director, David Robertson, and I decided to visit similar facilities in other locations. During a recent scoping trip in Northern Europe we had the opportunity to visit a number of such places in Denmark, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Specific site visits and meetings included nine locations: The Cube, five different Impact Hubs, Except, the Rotterdam Collective, and MindLab.

This type of enterprise combines spatial arrangements with a social infrastructure that we think has great potential for a sustainability entrepreneurship, design, and innovation ecosystem.  It’s exciting to imagine how CLiGS might develop such a space in the future.