Innovate Kansas: Core Projects

Goal: Increase the number of globally competitive innovative products and services produced in rural and/or distressed Kansas communities and regions
Targeted to: Individual companies, rural communities/regions, and distressed communities/regions
The network will specifically focus on:

  1. Profiling the innovation competencies, assets, capabilities, and needs of regions, communities, and their local companies,
  2. Developing the ability to scout out new opportunities, especially global opportunities, outside existing markets where center clients may have little to no connection access,
  3. Creating an actively woven network of technology providers, expertise, capital, etc and potential business partners that possess complimentary competencies who can enable center clients to respond in a competitive manner, and
  4. Facilitating the ability to readily connect and combine opportunities, companies, communities, and regions in innovative ways so that the response is greater than the sum of its respective parts.

The proposed network will employ innovative concepts/elements such as needs-based profiling/clustering, innovation assessments, opportunity scouting, boundary spanning, open innovation, design thinking, incubation, regional competitiveness, social networking, innovation network development, IT-based strategies, and innovative information visualization approaches.
Business differentiation and growth occur when opportunity intersects with ideas and the capacity to respond with innovative products and services. Some small rural businesses are able to connect with opportunities from around the world while others fail to make the connections necessary to sustain meaningful growth in global markets. Businesses in distressed or rural regions are especially apt to lack the informal networks necessary to keep up to date on new and disruptive ideas or opportunities. The challenge for many small rural companies and the communities and regions they support is creating an environment that transcends geographic isolation, discovers new markets, innovates openly and fosters global competitiveness to increase the probability of being at the intersection of great ideas and new opportunities.

The Technology Development Institute (TDI) at Kansas State University and its state and regional partners in partnership with the US Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) are building Innovate Kansas. The innovation network will help businesses and communities build networks to connect to opportunities in order to significantly multiply the capability of Kansas businesses to innovate and grow in rural and isolated areas.The network will act as an opportunity catalyst, boundary spanner, and connector for rural and/or distressed Kansas companies, communities, and regions wishing to compete in regional, national, and global markets with innovative technology-based goods and services.
Objectives: The proposed network will accomplish the following objectives:

  • Enable clients to look beyond their immediate market/region to collaborate with partners in other markets/regions, and thus promote unique, boundary-spanning innovation opportunities.
  • Provide the advantages of urban clusters (opportunity volume, resource density, diversity of interactions, and proximity to markets) to rural and distressed areas where clusters do not exist
  • Identify  and profile companies, communities, and regions with capability and desire to create new markets/product/services based on their competency/innovation profiles
  • Develop a dynamic system to scout for and document new opportunities in targeted markets (markets not being limited by geography), based on previous mentioned profiles
  • Connect profiled network clients with identified capabilities to the right opportunities – provide business development services as required
  • Leverage a collaborative IT support system that will be a mix of database systems, interfaces, and visualization tools to assist in capability assessment, opportunity recognition, and partnership creation among businesses and/or regions and communities.
  • Leverage TDI’s experience and previous EDA investments in early-stage technology development, supply chain development, innovation-based economic development, and regional innovation systems
  • Create networks of innovation that link state universities to rural and distressed regions of Kansas

Why Innovate Kansas:  Traditionally, opportunity and innovation are considered spontaneous and elusive phenomena. Nevertheless, to develop a sustaining competitive advantage, established companies and emerging entrepreneurs must develop networks that consistently funnel new opportunities into their ventures. Additionally they must access external resources to rapidly add value and then successfully launch the resultant innovative products and services into markets, regardless of where in the world the opportunities, resources, and markets reside. Sustaining such a competitive strategy requires companies and entrepreneurs to have wide social networks. Unfortunately, many existing companies and entrepreneurs build relationships with organizations/individuals that are a part of the same social or industry network they frequently interact with rather than exposing themselves to the opportunities in broader networks. In many cases, entrepreneurs are disconnected from opportunities by gaps, or structural holes, in their network. This issue is often complicated in rural or distressed Kansas regions due to insufficient interaction volume and density because of geographic isolation and sparse population. TDI’s proposed Kansas Opportunity Innovation Network aims to fill in the structural holes for rural and distressed Kansas companies, communities, and regions.
Deliverables: The proposed network will provide the following services/tools to rural and distressed companies, communities, and regions:

  1. Business and Innovation Profiling – Characterize companies by who they are, how they do things, and their needs instead of their end products, profile communities and regions based on their assets and innovation readiness
  2. Opportunity Scouting – A dynamic scouting process and repository of available opportunities
  3. Networking – Connect or link entities to each other based on the best match of capabilities and opportunities
  4. Business Development Assistance – Services to attract new customers and penetrate new markets
  5. Planning Assistance – Provide services to assist with technology cluster strategy, regional TBED strategy and manufacturing Incubation
  6. Mapping & Analysis Service and Tools– Mapping regional assets, social networks, and regional innovation readiness assessments; developing innovative tools to share with other economic development agents

Initial Core Projects: Innovate Kansas will  link companies, community, and regions to opportunities, based on capabilities, by undertaking the following core projects in different regions hence adapting the learning by doing approach. Initial center partner projects range broadly across the scope of work, geography served, industry served, and regional characteristics. Additional projects are expected.

  • South West Kansas: Regional Asset Mapping Project
  • Rural Region: North Central Kansas – Regional Business Profiling and Innovation Networking Project
  • Distressed Urban Area: Greater Wichita Area – Wind Supply Chain Prospecting and Pre-Profiling Assessment
  • Military Base Closure: Parsons Army Ammunition Plant – Business Redevelopment Support
  • Manufacturing Park/Incubator: South Central Kansas – Rural Multi-County Regional TBED Strategy and Business Development Support
  • Statewide: KDOC – Business Profiling/Supply Chain Network Development Prototype
  • Statewide: KTEC – Clean-Tech Cluster Strategy Development – Social Network Development Support


  • Kansas State University
  • Kansas Department of Commerce
  • Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation
  • Kansas Association of Regional Development Organizations
  • Great Plains Development Authority
  • South-central Kansas Economic Development District Inc.
  • North Central Regional Planning  Commission
  • Southeast Kansas Regional Planning Commission
  • Great Plains Development Inc.
  • Rural Policy Research Institute
  • Local Workforce Investment Boards (Area I and Area IV

© 2019 Innovate Kansas. All Rights Reserved.

Website Design and Development by Imagemakers