About The Innovation District

Where Chattanooga’s entrepreneurs, academics, and creatives collide. 

Events Calendar

Discover activities and events in the area.

Resiliency Checklist

Everything you need to prepare your organization for a crisis.

Small Business Supports

Helping small business owners across the region.

The Edney Innovation Center

The front door to the Innovation District of Chattanooga.

Tech Goes Home

Expanding access to technology and teaching digital literacy.

Digital Access Committee

Bringing together partners to close the digital divide, together.

HCS EdConnect

Home internet at no cost to thousands of families.

Connected Communities: Orchard Knob

The OKC leverages the collective support of partner organizations to tackle the whole picture of health and wellness in the historically underserved neighborhood.


Answering the most basic and most complex questions about life in Chattanooga

EMPACT Program

Preparing residents for the jobs of tomorrow, and today. 

Chattanooga Smart Communities Collaborative

Working together to identify our region’s challenges and create solutions.

Environmental Sensors

Collecting and analyzing air quality data from across our region with US Ignite.

Education (4K Microscope & Lola)

High-tech tools in Hamilton County’s classrooms.

Community Connectivity

Expanding access to the internet in homes and neighborhoods.

What is an Innovation District?

A photo of an audience in Miller Plaza, listening to a speaker on stage.
Members of the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga's team pose at a community event.

By Nikki Sneed

Innovation districts have been profiled in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and online media from Business Insider to Demos Quarterly.

But what are they exactly?

In The Rise of Innovation Districts, the Brookings Institution defines innovation districts as “geographic areas where leading-edge anchor institutions and companies cluster and connect with start-ups, business incubators and accelerators. They are also physically compact, transit-accessible, and technically-wired and offer mixed-use housing, office, and retail.”

So, what does all that mean?

Innovation districts are a new hot-ticket item in creative thinking and urban development around the US. A Google search will turn up millions of results, with Chattanooga’s district being pretty darn high on the list.

In the most basic terms, an innovation district is a designated section of a city where creative thinkers, entrepreneurs, students, and tech-savvy innovators can collide and collaborate to conceive and implement new ideas. It’s sort of an evolution of the live-work-play vision that leaders in many cities have been trying to achieve for decades in downtowns.

Ideally, innovation districts are made up of a everything people need to have a convenient, safe and engaged urban life, including a range of housing options, exciting nightlife and entertainment, innovative companies, startups, and accelerators, and other amenities such as coffee shops, parks, and transportation options. These elements combine to create an environment where people are within walking or biking distance of everything they need.

Sounds great, right? But haven’t we been working on this in Chattanooga for quite a while?

Yes, at least 30 years, and this is one thing that gives Chattanooga the jump on a number of other cities that are designating innovation districts. The qualities of place, or the factors that make public spaces within the city attractive and enjoyable, in our district and its surroundings are a significant attraction to new residents, workers, students and entrepreneurs.

The new generation of creative thinkers is further pushing the envelope by choosing alternative forms of transportation and focusing the bulk of their lives on the geography of open innovation around them—physical spaces, like coffee shops, where talented individuals can bump into each other and exchange ideas.

Innovation districts are a powerful urban strategy, a next step in generating ideas for technological advancement and economic growth. Open environments where ideas can move freely and talented people can collaborate are key for creating the next big thing in urban and economic growth.

Want to learn more about what’s happening in the Innovation District? Check out our next blog: ChattaNewbies.