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Innovating Our Way to a Healthy State Economy

May 13, 2019

Elliot Joseph
Chief Executive Officer
Hartford HealthCare

Look out, Silicon Valley, here comes the Connecticut River Valley. Seriously.

Last month, Bloomberg’s latest U.S. State Innovation Index ranked Connecticut as the fourth most innovative economy. Only California, Massachusetts and Washington ranked ahead. The Bloomberg wizards based this on the presence of a highly trained and high-tech workforce, our many tech companies and the quality of higher education here. I would add another factor: healthcare. It’s a major engine of economic vitality in Connecticut and it’s already accounting for a huge chunk of venture capital in the U.S. Healthcare is quickly becoming a hothouse of innovation and high technology.

The Bloomberg ranking took many by surprise. For one thing, our state has a national reputation as a staid and conservative place. “Land of steady habits” isn’t necessarily a complement. But states, like old dogs, can learn new tricks. For example, CTNext, a public-private partnership, is distributing $30 million over five years to support tech start-ups and community-building activities across the state. Hartford HealthCare, Trinity College and the University of Connecticut School of Business are collaborating on a Digital Health Accelerator in downtown Hartford that will nurture entrepreneurs working on the next wave of products and services that will improve care for the people we serve.

HHC isn’t new to this work. For a decade, our Center for Education, Simulation and Innovation has been both educating health professionals in the use of surgical robots and other advanced medical technologies, and also serving as development-and-evaluation center for new products from leading biotechnology companies. Our next step is to further open our care ecosystem to the pioneering entrepreneurs who need to better understand the providers, patients and families who make up the real world of healthcare.

It has to be asked: If Connecticut is such a high-tech hotbed, why isn’t our economy better? The answer is that our state has the dots, but it needs to connect them. That’s just beginning. Education-business partnerships are emerging. We are starting to see strong word-of-mouth around our cities, big and small. For example, when Infosys contemplated establishing its Technology and Innovation Hub in Hartford, I and other business leaders encouraged the company to set up shop in the city, which it did last year. We’re letting people know that Connecticut has the people, the institutions and the location to create the next big things.

We need a stronger economy and the kind of stable state budget it will bring. Connecticut was sixth on the Bloomberg list in 2016. We jumped three spots in the last three years. Let’s jump to the top of the list. We can do this.