In Four Years, Birmingham’s Innovation Week Has Grown From Grassroots Effort to Citywide Movement

innovation week birmingham

Innovation Week Birmingham, a city-wide initiative that involves players across the business, educational, and public ecosystems, kicks off its fourth year on August 18th. The event originated in 2014 as an open platform for organizations, initiatives, and individuals that nurture and drive the Magic City’s innovation ecosystem. This year’s Innovation Week will be anchored by several flagship, as well as a few brand new, events.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham is celebrating the official launch of their Commercialization Acceleration, as well as presenting 2017 innovation awards, and the Birmingham Education Foundation and Education Advisory Board Company have teamed up to host a half-day of coding.

Women Who Code Birmingham is also hosting its very first hackathon, Magic City Hacks.

Tried and true events will be returning as well; for example, the second annual block party at the McWane Science Center Courtyard to kick off the week. A screening of “She Started It,” an award-winning documentary highlighting female entrepreneurs, will take place in the Velocity Accelerator at Innovation Depot. Organized by GirlSpring and Girls Rock Birmingham, the film will be bookended by a performance by young musicians with Girls Rock and a panel discussion.

TechBirmingham, an organization that aims to strengthen and promote the Birmingham tech ecosystem, will host  TechTuesday headlined by Sidewalk Film Festival, who is hosting a panel discussion on innovative applications of virtual reality. TechBirmingham’s President and CEO Jennifer Skjellum, an entrepreneur, educator and ecosystem builder, will present a keynote on her work to grow and strengthen the technology ecosystem in Birmingham.

Finally, Southern Research will host a free public viewing party for the first total solar eclipse in the continental U.S. in over 40 years. Solar viewing glasses will be provided to attendees for the viewing, and NASA’s livestream will be broadcast in SR’s Martin Library.

Innovation Week began as a grassroots movement to support startups, and has since grown into a city-wide movement. Last year approximately 3,800 people were in attendance for 30 activities.

“The first year we started this, it was kind of an accident. We looked around and saw what other cities were doing to support startups and we wanted to work together in a similar way to show what our community has to offer,” says Birmingham Business Alliance Vice President of Investor Relations Loren Traylor. “That was the genesis. We pulled it together in six weeks. We had no money. We now have lots of new organizations [involved] and resources [poured into it]. And we’re emphasizing that technology and innovation isn’t just for the young. It’s for the young, the old – it’s for everyone.”

Partners now range from institutions like the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the City of Birmingham to innovation center such as Innovation Depot and TechBirmingham. Birmingham Business Alliance, Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, Southern Research, REV Birmingham, Birmingham Venture Club, and more are also involved.

“Innovation Depot is proud to be founding partner of Innovation Week Birmingham, and we could not be more excited about all of this year’s events highlighting our community’s incredible resources and growth as a technology and innovation hub in the Southeast,” says Innovation Depot CEO Devon Laney.

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Photos via Birmingham Business Alliance and Innovation Depot.

Kathleen Hamrick is an Alabama native serving as Innovation Depot’s Director of Marketing & Education, where she has played an integral role in the implementation of for-credit experiential programs for students with interest in entrepreneurship, innovation, and technology. In her spare time, Hamrick is a Books Running sponsored ultramarathoner, occasionally flies single-engine prop planes at the Birmingham Flight Center, and frequently dreams of building a kit plane: Cessna 162. She serves as Hype’s Birmingham-based correspondent.