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Report highlights BioSTL as example for building on city’s strengths

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

A report from a national organization is recognizing BioSTL as a model for other cities looking to build on their own industrial and research strengths.

The Initiative for Competitive Inner Cities’ report “Building Strong Clusters for Strong Urban Economies”focuses on four case studies from cities around the country.

The report said BioSTL offers insights for cities trying to support a traditionally strong cluster or industry that has lost some of its large corporations. BioSTL was established in 2001, to build on the plant and life sciences sector, not long after St. Louis had lost several of its corporate headquarters.

Kim Zeuli, ICIC's senior vice president, said BioSTL is impressive not only because of its success, but the non-profit’s ability to bring stakeholders together. Zeuli is also the group's director of research and lead author of the report. 

“This was intentional, this was created and it’s everyone being aligned around a set objective and strategies,” Zeuli said. “It sounds easy, but it’s really hard to do.”

The report details how BioSTL first focused on building the region’s entrepreneurial assets, such as capital, support services and real estate, then helped in the creation of developing affordable lab and office space for startups.

Donn Rubin, BioSTL's president and CEO,  called it a privilege to be held out as a model for other cities.

“We’re delighted to have earned this recognition from a really internationally-recognized organization that looks at industry clusters around the world,” Rubin said.

The ICIC report comes on the heels of BioSTL’s recent recognition by the Brookings Institution. It highlighted the non-profit’s GlobalSTL initiative, which works to attract foreign companies to put a presence in St. Louis. So far, five startups from Israel have done so, and the initiative is making inroads into Ireland, France, India and Argentina.

In fact, the inaugural GlobalSTL Health Innovation Summit will be held at Washington University on Wednesday.

The summit will allow 13 companies from Ireland and Israel and one St. Louis company to present to both health-care organizations and venture capitalists.

Rubin said it allows St. Louis health-care organizations to get access to cutting edge technology; puts startups in a good position to get customers or capital; and ultimately could bring more companies to St. Louis.

“We describe it as a win, win, win,” Rubin said. 

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.