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State Hosting Innovation Spaces Conference

Friday, October 13, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jeff Couture

Governor Phil Scott announced the first annual Innovation Spaces Conference will be held October 26, focused on creating a community among founders, users, and supporters of innovation spaces in Vermont.The free conference will be held October 26, 9 a.m. to noon at the Castleton University Center.

The conference is designed to support the success of a new kind of business model that is spreading throughout the country and has a vibrant, growing presence in Vermont.

Innovation spaces – the collective term for a communal and efficient shared workplace that includes co-working and maker spaces, incubators and accelerators – are becoming more prevalent in Vermont, as entrepreneurs leverage them for their low cost, collaborative atmosphere, and specialized equipment.

These organizations are breeding grounds for companies that start small, often with one employee, but have potential to scale up as their ideas and prototypes take shape. The collaborative nature of innovation spaces allows entrepreneurs to share their expertise to each other’s benefit.

“Innovation spaces are an important way for Vermont to encourage business growth from within as we work to grow our economy and create more opportunities for Vermonters,” said Gov. Scott. “This is an economic development tool my Administration is committed to leveraging, and I’m excited to see what ideas come out of this conference.”

The Agency of Commerce and Community Development is hosting the conference, which stems from an idea promoted during the 2016 legislative session by Rep. Kevin Christie (D, Windsor 4-2). “It’s important to foster microbusiness development in Vermont,” said Rep. Christie. “These organizations provide a safe space for innovation, trial and error, and product development that’s not always readily available to the small, start-up entrepreneur.”

The conference is the first in a series of events focused on economic development that the Agency plans to produce. Agency Secretary Mike Schirling says more events in the coming months around the state will focus on topics essential to the economic growth of Vermont. “We plan to produce quarterly events throughout the state on topics that are relevant to our businesses,” stated Schirling, adding, “We want to connect with entrepreneurs, communities, and businesses to bring them new ideas and help them grow where they are.”

The Innovation Spaces Conference is co-sponsored by the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies (VCET). VCET president Dave Bradbury will moderate the discussion. “With the number of small and one-person businesses on the rise in Vermont, it’s important to provide resources for local entrepreneurs to test out their business concepts and assist them in getting their businesses to the next level,” said Bradbury.

The conference is the first of its kind in Vermont, and will appeal to owners, users, and supporters of innovation spaces, as well as community members considering opening a space in their town. Sessions will focus on starting and funding spaces, and maintaining momentum through best practices and value-added services. Panelists include experienced professionals from Vermont-based innovation spaces who will share their challenges and success stories. The conference will end with an optional tour of Rutland’s new maker space, The MINT.

Program schedule:

9-10 a.m. Starting an Innovation Space
Panelists: Dave Evans, former owner of CoWorking Plus

Samantha Sheehan, Valley.Works of Waitsfield

Doug Webster, Champlain Maker Faire, MakrWorks, Burlington Generator founding Board Member, and Education Programs Coordinator for the Vermont Agency of Education

10:15-11 a.m. Financing Innovation Spaces
Panelists: Ted Brady, Deputy Secretary, Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development

Travis Hellstrom, The Engine Room, White River Junction innovation space

Michael Metz, Board Member, The Generator of Burlington

11:15-12 p.m. Maintaining Momentum
Panelists: Dimitri Gardner, The Lightning Jar co-working space of Bennington
Michael Metz, Board Member, The Generator of Burlington

Sam Roach-Gerber, Director of Innovation, VCET of Burlington/Middlebury

12 p.m. Tour of The MINT (optional)

Find more information here

Register for the conference here

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