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A neon sign marks an exhibit inside the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh. A new initiative will create an ‘innovation district’ in the city’s Oakland neighborhood. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

PITTSBURGH — This city punches above its weight in the innovation economy, but Pittsburgh is still working to compete on the level of larger tech hubs like Boston, Seattle, and San Francisco.

Bridging that gap is the mission of InnovatePGH, a new public-private partnership launching Tuesday with the goal of expanding Pittsburgh’s tech ecosystem.

InnovatePGH wants to implement recommendations from a 2017 Brookings Institution study that analyzed Pittsburgh’s strengths and weaknesses as it tries to reinvent itself as a tech hub. The study, funded by the Heinz Endowments and the Hillman Foundation, found that Pittsburgh’s “scientific and technical strengths have not fully translated into broad-based economic activity.”

InnovatePGH Director Sean Luther.

“Even though we have had a number of really fantastic wins in the knowledge economy space over the past number of years, there’s actually a lot more that we can be doing to connect the specialties within the universities and at UPMC with an economic development platform,” InnovatePGH Director Sean Luther told GeekWire.

The partnership will work to establish an innovation district in Oakland, connecting the talent coming out of nearby Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh with technology companies. InnovatePGH is also focused on workforce development aimed at ensuring that Pittsburgh’s longtime residents aren’t excluded from the jobs of the new economy. InnovatePGH wants to accelerate work that’s already underway by the Pennsylvania Council for Higher Education.

“The goal is actually to connect residents of the neighborhoods adjacent to Oakland and the innovation district to jobs in the innovation district,” Luther said. “This is an early opportunity to demonstrate that building out the tech sector in Pittsburgh can — if we’re deliberate and live up to the mayor’s vision of an inclusive economy for all — have a direct and positive impact on all of the residents of the city, rather than creating a specific new class of folks that are operating in the innovation sector.”

InnovatePGH is privately funded but its mission supports the economic development strategies of Pittsburgh’s municipal government and Allegheny County.

“The Brookings Report has been an important call to action for our regional economic development partners,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto in a statement. “InnovatePGH is the city’s platform to build the knowledge infrastructure needed to translate our technological strengths into an inclusive and equitable growth strategy for the entire city.”

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