BioKansas is a nonprofit focused on promoting the bioscience industry across Kansas. As part of this work, BioKansas is organizing the three day Innovation Festival beginning on August 4th, 2022. Innovation Festival is an economic, workforce and community development effort meant to celebrate the role the Midwest plays in driving innovation. The festival has three components: a conference on innovations in ag tech, a recruitment event for early career scientists focused on disease research and pharmacology, and a public festival featuring nationally-acclaimed musical acts, product demonstrations by midwestern innovators, and a brewery showcase.

The first component of the schedule is the Innovations In Ag Tech Conference, which will bring together over 100 innovators, scientists, growers, and manufacturers from across the Midwest to share information about new innovations in the ag tech space. The conference will feature product demos, speaker sessions, and network opportunities for attendees, and will help to raise awareness about the opportunities that exist in Kansas to drive progress in the ag tech space. The conference will also offer pop-up networking opportunities across Kansas City where even non-conference attendees can meet up and talk with the speakers and other attendees about their work. 

The second component of the festival is the Mechanisms of Disease Research & Recruitment Conference, which is focused on workforce development in the biosciences sector. The conference will bring in students, scientists, and researchers from across the region and match them with area universities and employers with education, training, and employment opportunities. The conference will feature speakers, a poster session, and unique networking opportunities like an opening night dinner at Boulevard Brewing to help connect attendees and expose them to the vibrancy of the city so they can understand what it would be like to work or study here. 

The final component of the event is the Innovation Festival itself, which will feature a full-day lineup of musical acts interspersed with presentations by area innovators demonstrating their work, as well as a brewery showcase. The festival is designed to showcase the Kansas City region as a destination for not only innovation, but also music, art, and beer. BioKansas will also give a presentation at the festival on their future work promoting the bioscience industry in Kansas, Kansas City’s distinct competitive advantage in advancing this subsector, and why progress in the biosciences is so important for health equity and economic prosperity. 

The innovation festival is an extension of the work BioKansas has been involved in for several years now to promote the biosciences and biologics manufacturing industries within Kansas City and across the state of Kansas. Biologics represent the cutting edge of pharmaceutical medicine, and create the opportunity for us to realize the potential for personalized medicine. In partnership with KC Rising, BioKansas identified Kansas City as having unique advantages for building a flourishing hub for biologics manufacturing by virtue of its strengths in design and engineering, logistics, and medical research. Biologics manufacturing also offers a unique opportunity to promote workforce development efforts, as the re-skilling necessary to train manufacturing workers for these new roles is straightforward, and offers a secure path to durable high-wage jobs with excellent employer benefits. 

In designing a strategy for executing this plan for building a biologics manufacturing industry, BioKansas worked with KC Rising to develop a 7-part strategic plan. In addition to collecting data and gathering feedback from community partners about the economic development steps that would need to be taken, this planning process also included a unique emphasis on equity and inclusion. Working with Diversity Science, the planning team undertook a data gathering exercise to understand what it would mean to build an equitable and inclusive industry cluster, and how to ensure that those values are built into economic development plans moving forward.

Sonia Hall, President and CEO of BioKansas, presented to the KC Digital Drive Health Innovation Team on July 27, 2022A recording of her presentation can be accessed here.

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