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InnovatePGH launches to grow Pittsburgh's tech scene

Aaron Aupperlee
| Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018, 3:18 p.m.
Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh's latest attempt to grow its technology scene launched Tuesday.

InnovatePGH is a collaboration between the city's universities, foundations, startup accelerators and incubators, city and county governments and economic development organizations such as the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

It will work to grow startup companies in Pittsburgh and keep them here, develop and market an Innovation District and develop the city's workforce for jobs in the tech economy, said Sean Luther, who was announced as executive director of InnovatePGH.

“We're doing a pretty good job at stimulating the knowledge-based economy in Pittsburgh,” Luther said. “But we're not creating job growth and startups at the level that we could.”

InnovatePGH grew out of a study by the Brookings Institution into how Pittsburgh could become a global innovation city.

The report said Oakland, with the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, could be the catalyst to drive the city's tech growth.

The study suggested Pittsburgh form an Innovation District centered in Oakland and containing East Liberty, the South Side, Uptown, Downtown, the Strip District, Lawrenceville and the North Side.

Luther said success in these neighborhoods breeds more success. Philips chose to put its new research and development center in Oakland to be close to the CMU, Luther said. Robotics companies set up shop in Lawrenceville to be close to the National Robotics Engineering Center. Startups are attracted to East Liberty to be close to Google, Duolingo and other companies.

“Key destinations are our hook,” Luther said.

Luther said InnovatePGH isn't “drawing a wall around Oakland” or around the other neighborhoods in the Innovation District. InnovatePGH's workforce development focus will reach into Homewood, the Hill District and other neighborhoods to provide training so all residents can participate in the tech economy.

Luther, who had led Envision Downtown before coming to InnovatePGH, said he will first focus on the Innovation District and retaining startups. InnovatePGH will bring together people in Pittsburgh's technology scene each month to evaluate progress. As 2018 winds down, InnovatePGH could stand on its own, could wind down, could fold into a city or county program or into the Allegheny Conference, Luther said.

“We're looking to garner some really strong wins in the next six months,” Luther said.

Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, has taken over control of Envision Downtown and is redesigning the program for a relaunch, Luther said.

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at, 412-336-8448 or via Twitter @tinynotebook.

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