• Tim Zanni, Leadership |

Never before have locales that foster technology innovation been more important than they are right now as our global community fights the spread of COVID-19. Accelerated collaboration, partnership, and the cross-pollination of ideas is crucial in times of crisis, and we are seeing technology hubs facilitate this.

Technology innovation hubs are defined by certain ecosystem components such as research universities, modern infrastructure, a pipeline of skilled young talent, available investment funding, and a supporting ecosystem (law firms, professional services, banks, etc.). These hotbeds of innovation are providing a fertile environment for companies to thrive and quickly deliver products, services, and solutions to directly combat the COVID-19 virus or mitigate its social and business impacts.

One example, and perhaps the most appropriate example, of an enabling tech hub is New York City. Not only is it the U.S. epicenter for COVID-19, but it also ranks as the #5 global innovation hub (outside Silicon Valley) in our 2020 Technology Industry Innovation Survey (PDF 629 KB). The survey also includes other global hubs where companies are developing their own innovative solutions to combat COVID-19.

Several established companies and startups headquartered in and around New York City are at the forefront of the COVID-19 battle. After working for many years in New York City, I can personally attest to the resiliency and ingenuity of New Yorkers. Even more impressive is that these companies’ initiatives are moving forward while the city and surrounding area are in lockdown and workforces are remote:

  • Using artificial intelligence (AI) to produce granular COVID-19 maps that enables individuals to decide what places to avoid, companies to manage risk, and governments to deploy resources.
  • Spearheading the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, which brings together an unprecedented amount of computing power to help researchers better understand COVID-19, its treatments, and potential cures.
  • Partnering with government agencies to develop drugs to reduce the severity of COVID-19 illness and treat infections; possibly leading to a vaccine.
  • Developing AI and conversational software used by 18,000 brands to enable their contact centers to work remotely and still meet rising demand as conversation volume has increased by about 20 percent since mid-February.
  • Offering free trial periods or reduced rates on AI-enabled fintech products to both businesses and consumers to make financial transactions and management faster and easier during this time of social distancing.

Looking forward, history suggests that once we overcome this challenge, businesses will eventually seek to ramp up their growth again through likely actions such as M&A, joint venture deals, or the establishment of new innovation centers. During this process, these location factors should be assessed for the acquisition target, potential partner, or new site:

  • Is the infrastructure and master plan (including roads, mass transit, wireless bandwidth, green spaces, mixed-use development) conducive to long-term population growth and an improved quality of life?
  • Is the locale attractive to Millennial and Generation Z workers, creating a pipeline of technology-savvy talent?
  • Does the new location have at least one research university or a system of established tech companies or innovation zones?
  • Are both public and private investment funding available?
  • Is the regulatory and tax environment favorable to technology companies?

It’s been proven that technology innovation hubs drive great local economic benefits. Now they are showing they have an even greater role to play, and may help avert the next global health emergency.