A Spirit of Citywide Innovation

From startup incubators to nationally recognized universities, St. Louis is a notable hub for technological advancement


NGA Director Robert Cardillo views N2W as an opportunity for the agency to “reset” its relationship with the broader St. Louis community.

“We are quite proud of our history here and of the engagement we’ve had,” he said in October during a keynote at USGIF’s Innovation Day held at the Cortex Innovation Community in St. Louis.

Cortex is a 200-acre innovation hub and technology district in the city’s historic Central West End and Forest Park Southeast neighborhoods. St. Louis is also home to T-REX, a co-working space and technology incubator downtown that houses nearly 200 companies. Further, the city is known for its nationally ranked universities and medical centers, including St. Louis University, Washington University, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, and more.

“The fact of [this citywide innovation] as we approached the decision on our new campus was important,” Cardillo said.

At the time of Cardillo’s speech, three NGA employees had worked full-time at Cortex for about a year sharing space with industry partners. He noted that by the end of 2016 the agency would have its own space and 15 employees stationed at Cortex supporting cloud migration, development activities, and industry and academic interaction.

“The growth in technology here and the innovation we’re seeing has been tremendous,” said Otis Williams, executive director of the St. Louis Development Corporation with the mayor’s office.

Arch Grants, a nonprofit organization that provides $50,000 of equity-free grants to entrepreneurs who locate their early-stage businesses in St. Louis, has played a significant role in this growth—particularly as many businesses launched in St. Louis decide to stay there.

Dr. Patricia Hagen, president and executive director of T-REX, said several of the incubator’s startups are already partnered with NGA.

“We’ve been talking with a number of NGA representatives about what kinds of partnership opportunities there might be in helping NGA achieve its objectives around connecting with the community,” Hagen said. “The new facility is going to be less than 1.5 miles away from T-REX. The opportunities for partnership within the community are great.”

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay is excited for N2W to continue to foster vibrancy throughout the city—both technologically and economically.

Slay said he is pleased NGA isn’t “an island,” and that Cardillo is committed to connecting with the community and having the agency engage with area academic institutions from the K–12 through university level.

“I’m looking forward to a mutually beneficial relationship that will not only enhance the mission of NGA but also one that will enhance the St. Louis community,” the mayor said.

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