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Includes also Bayboro Harbour, Salt Creek Marine District, Salt Creek, & Booker Creek

Intellectual Property of Dorian Aerial & Architectural Photograph Posted June 28, 2019 by Alison Barlow

Innovation District

A Current Overview

St. Pete Innovation District: Key Hub for Healthcare, Research & Education

Story by STEVE TRAIMAN Paradise News December 1, 2020

In one of the Southeast’s most dynamic waterfront downtowns, the St. Pete Innovation District (aerial map) is the professional home to thousands of scientists, doctors, educators and entrepreneurs working together to make life better.

From the impact of oil spills on marine life to finding a cure for childhood diabetes, researchers in the District tackle tough questions alongside colleagues in a regional marine research hub, two hospitals, a university, a world-renowned media school, a business incubator and several other public and private research organizations.


Executive Director Alison Barlow provided this brief overview to Paradise News. To capitalize on that excellence for a better St. Petersburg, public and private leaders came together in 2016 to create a non-profit organization. Their intent is to encourage collaboration between institutions and businesses and support the District’s attraction for new investment.

The official mission is to develop St. Petersburg into an environment that fosters job growth, economic development, and learning and inspiration by bringing innovative people and organizations together. Through these collaborations, people in the District have the potential to create solutions that not only address local challenges but also benefit the world.


The District, which extends from Fifth Avenue South to 18th Avenue South, officially launched in 2016, though there had been planning for a few years prior.  Our organizing framework is built on a model by the Brookings Institute.  That model highlights the need to bring together three things: economic assets – attracting and supporting innovation driver organizations, innovation cultivators, and neighborhood-building amenities; physical assets – creating public and privately-owned spaces designed to stimulate connectivity and collaboration; and networking assets – facilitating the formal and informal relationships that have the potential to generate, sharpen and accelerate the advancement of ideas.


District innovators include under Healthcare: Bayfront Health, St. Petersburg Johns Hopkins-All Children’s Hospital...Research: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Institute of Oceanography, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, SRI International, Poynter Institute for Media Studies, USF Geologic Survey, USF College of Marine Science, USF St. Petersburg  Education: Bayfront Health, Florida Institute of Oceanography, Johns Hopkins, Port St. Pete, Poynter.

Goals, Industries & Governance


Barlow continued: Key goals were to attract new, diverse businesses and intellectual capacity. This includes working with the city and the St. Petersburg Economic Development Corp. to recruit new businesses.  We also assist existing entrepreneurs and businesses as they look for ways to expand their efforts.  


Our objective is to create new employment opportunities for individuals in the area, and to facilitate collaboration in the search of innovation that includes raising the awareness of the expertise that exists in St. Pete. Then using that insight to form working groups from around the areas to tackle interesting and relevant challenges.  And to create a sense of place that includes physical improvements to the District area, creation of new places for people to gather such as The Library Restaurant, and implementation of technology infrastructure.


St. Petersburg has five target industries that are articulated in the Grow Smarter strategy:  Marine and Life Science, Data Analytics, Creative Art and Design, Financial Technology/Services, and Specialized Manufacturing. The Innovation District focused on the areas of Marine and Life Science, Data Analytics, and Creative Art as well as Entrepreneurship.

The seven anchor organizations that comprise the governing Board of Directors are Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, Bayfront Health St Petersburg, Foundation for a Healthy St Petersburg, USF-St Petersburg campus, USF  College of Marine Science, St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership, and the City of St. Petersburg.


An advisory Innovation Council includes the anchor organizations, plus others from within the District, and from around the region. Examples include The Dali Museum, The Tampa Bay Innovation Center, Poynter Institute, BayCare, St. Petersburg College, Spectrum, Suncoast Developers Guild, and Duke Energy. We welcome anyone who has an interest in innovation, particularly in our target areas, to join us.


Recent District Accomplishments

St. Pete Ocean Team is administrated by the Innovation District and is the largest concentration of marine science related professionals in the southeast United States, with most of these experts based in the District.  The group originated prior to the District being formed but with the District’s support, the USF College of Marine Science recently won an $8 million coastal mapping project with NOAA. They have also developed a collaboration between the USF College of Marine Science and Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital  to expand research on the intersection of ocean and human health.


A Smart Gigabyte Community grant was awarded to the District by US Ignite in early 2019 for the city of St. Pete – the only Florida city. 

Through the grant, the District is piloting smart city technology such as smart streetlights, smart intersections that can gather data about collisions and near-misses of pedestrians, bikes, and cars, and a unique STEM education program that brings together the USF College of Marine Science and students at the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Suncoast.


Digital Inclusion 

St. Pete is co-led by the Innovation District and the Deuces Live District with the joint purpose to eliminate the digital gap.  This includes making sure that everyone has internet access, a computer, training on how to use it, and technical support.  Though this effort began in late 2019, we saw the importance and gained a lot of momentum in 2020 with the onset of COVID and stay at home restrictions. 


In July 2019, the Federal government awarded a $7.5 million grant to Pinellas County to help build the planned $12 million Tampa Bay Innovation Center Incubator just south of downtown. Pinellas County commissioners agreed to finance the other $4.5 million for the 45,000-square-foot facility to be built on a 2.5-acre city-owned site at the southwest corner of Fourth Street and 11th Avenue South in the Brookside Park neighborhood. In response to the news, Mayor Rick Kriseman: This is a big win for St. Pete and Pinellas County and the culmination of much hard work on a project years in the making.


This October, The Beck Group, official Incubator architect, noted that the Innovation Center should be ready for bid proposals by the end of March 2021. Once the county evaluates the construction bids, a prime contractor will be selected. According to the proposed schedule, construction will commence on the building no later than July 2021 and a ribbon-cutting should occur no later than July 2023.

Barlow noted: We are thrilled that the Tampa Bay Innovation Center will have its new home in the Innovation District.  This is an important organization in our entrepreneurial ecosystem.  They have a proven track record of helping entrepreneurs to grow their business.  We work together closely, and I know that this new facility will only strengthen those collaborations.

[Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Alison Barlow for her valuable input and photos.]

[Steve Traiman is President of
Creative Copy by Steve Traiman, St. Pete Beach, providing business writing services at]


VISIONING SUMMARY September 15th, 2015



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