In a few months, entrepreneurial support professionals from all over the globe will convene at the 33rd annual International Conference on Business Incubation (ICBI33). This blog is the first of a three-part series highlighting how our members are exemplifying the conference’s theme, Innovate, Collaborate, and Elevate, and what you can expect from the ICBI33. We start with the word “innovation” and are focusing on the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center (NIIC), an InBIA member and home to the EDA i6 award-winning Indiana Connected Health IoT Lab. We sat down with NIIC’s entrepreneur-in-residence, Mike Fritsch, to learn more about their innovation strategies and the Indiana Connected IoT Lab.

The IoT Lab, set to open within the first quarter of this year, will transform Indiana’s health and healthcare systems. “It’s a big area of expansion for a lot of companies that are not traditionally in IoT but could be, such as software, electric, and IT companies,” Fritsch says. NIIC hopes that the lab will help inspire entrepreneurs in these industries and also kickstart their companies to success.

The IoT Lab will fuel these industries within healthcare by training suppliers, educating entrepreneurs, and creating connections between the two groups. “We want to be the organization in the middle that not only puts them together but provides a mechanism for them to actually get it [projects] done,” Fritsch explains. This mechanism is a three-step process that starts with communication. “The communication process is where a lot of innovation happens,” Fritsch says. The second step plays off this innovation, encouraging the suppliers and entrepreneurs to play around with infrastructure, tools, and software. “Try things, see what works, see what doesn’t and see how well it works. Make prototypes that you can try and then network with some suppliers or other companies that are in the market and see how they actually work in real life,” Fritsch says. The last step Fritsch talked about was knowing and researching the market, “innovation doesn’t do much good if you can’t get the product created and out to the market.”

For entrepreneurship centers looking to implement similar strategies, Fritsch advises to start by thinking about what is good for their specific regions and then to leverage the resources and companies that are already there. “It’s really nearly impossible to try to create something out of nothing,” Fritsch says. Knowing the region’s needs comes from a design-thinking approach that emphasizes innovation through empathy. To know what people need and what they’re thinking, Fritsch offers one simple solution. “Talk to your clients and get needs and ideas through them… Ask them what’s out there on the horizon,” he suggested, “and start using that as a basis for your innovation.”

Fritsch concluded with two pieces of advice.  “You should always look at other entrepreneurship centers and see what they’re doing, what’s best in class, and, of course, what InBIA is doing. They’re the best resource I know for accomplishing that.” He encourages members to reach out to other entrepreneurship centers and ask questions as well as attend webinars and go to conferences. “Resources like that are just waiting at your fingertips, so take advantage. They are very helpful.”

Conferences, like ICBI33, are a great source of networking with other professionals in your industry and can contribute to impactful tips and insights for your center.

Click here to register for ICBI33 today!