University Economic Development Association

Presentation Slide Deck

The Place Network hosted two special guests from University of Kentucky (UK) Innovate: Ian McClure, Executive Director of Innovation Connect and Senior Associate Director of Innovation Economic Development and Industry Partnerships, and Landon Borders, Associate Vice President for Research, Innovation and Economic Impact. Ian and Landon discussed how federal funding priorities are influencing place-based regional economic development and opportunities to build ecosystems.


UK Innovate is the innovation, entrepreneurship and economic enterprise for UK Research. Through technology commercialization, corporate partnerships, social innovation, innovation training and economic development initiatives, it aims to achieve significant social and economic impact. As a public land-grant university, their work extends beyond campus, serving the surrounding Southeastern Commerce Corridor (SCC) region in Kentucky and Tennessee.

Ian kicks off the presentation by explaining the factors that led to the recent surge in federal spending towards place-based opportunities. The U.S. saw significant growth in national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and patents, and was a global leader in total patent applications until 2008, when China surpassed the U.S. This shift led to a “Sputnik moment” in 2022, where international relations became the impetus for large innovation infrastructure investments. Global competition motivated major legislation and research supporting place-based development. This included the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), multiple thinks publishing papers on place-based investments, and the National Science Foundation’s launch of the Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP) Directorate.

Ian then shifted to conditions specific to the SCC region regarding UK Innovate’s pursuit for place-based investments. To build their case for receiving federal funding, UK Innovate utilized baseline data supporting Kentucky’s (and regional neighbor Tennessee’s) strengths and gaps including (but not limited to):


Gaps to address

  • Density of STEM talent per capita
  • Geographic proximity to major innovation industry cities.
  • Globalization
  • Economic Dynamism
  • Knowledge Jobs
  • Digital Economy
  • Innovation Economy
  • Regional issues (emissions, inefficient energy use, declining workforce)

Landon then talked about how UK Innovate approached a proposal and coalition for generating manufacturing excellence in the SCC region. Leveraging the NSF Regional Innovation Engines Program, UK Innovate collaborated with neighboring organizations to build a mutual consensus and received a development award under the the Game Change coalition. Organizations within the ecosystem of partners include universities, 2-year degree programs, community partners, private corporation. Together, Game Change aims to align their goals and Knowledge-to-Action (KTA) models towards the Chips and Science Act and the NSF Engines Program, playing on their strengths and acting on their priorities pictured below:

Game Change Mission:

By 2034, the SCC will be a global leader in next-generation manufacturing and supply chain innovation for the circular economy, supported by an inclusive and diverse workforce.