As HQ2 search continues, Dallas Regional Chamber is taking inventory of the area's ability to foster innovation

As Amazon's #HQ2 search looms, SMU joins the Dallas Regional Chamber, Accenture and the United Way to take stock of the area's ability to foster innovation.

By Maria Halkias
Retail Writer

Dallas has a perceived weak spot of not being as good a startup facilitator as places like Austin.

To help remedy that the Dallas Regional Chamber, Southern Methodist University, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and Accenture are working on a study to find ways to accelerate the area’s startup activity and strengthen its reputation as “a hub for innovation.”

That’s a label that every city in America wants to claim. Innovation is more than a buzzword; it’s seen as the way that regional economies will continue to grow, said Jorge Corral, managing director for Accenture’s Dallas office. “Dallas is one of the strongest regional economies, but we know innovation is the driving force for ongoing growth.”

The analysis comes as Dallas is competing for Amazon’s second headquarters along with 19 other cities chosen from 238 submissions. Amazon announced in September that it’s looking for “a stable business climate for growth and innovation” that will accommodate its needs over the next decade: 50,000 hires paid an average of $100,000 a year.

On Thursday the chamber released a scorecard of how Dallas-Fort Worth stacks up against 24 peer cities in rankings that other experts have published. Dallas ranks from a high of 3 to a low of 29 among the indexes and studies that measured overall economic growth to small business performance. Dubbed the Dallas Region’s Innovation Scorecard, it’s a snapshot of D-FW’s standing as a place to spawn and adapt innovation.


SMU Provost Steven Currall said historically universities have played a role in economic development, and SMU wants to be more of a catalyst in the regional economy.

“It’s about positioning Dallas as a progressive city of innovation,” Currall says. “It’s about competitiveness. Part of the way we compete is to having an environment where companies can flourish.”

Universities generate intellectual property, provide a workforce, teach people about innovation and contribute to the local economy, Currall said. “It’s an effort to take stock of where we are with our ecosystem and use it to guide our more mature ecosystem and do a better job.”

For example, he said, SMU’s Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences is generating extensive research on earthquakes and fracking. The university’s Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber Security’s director Frederick Chang is a former head of research at the NSA. SMU’s AT&T Center for Virtualization was formed last year to work on cloud computing.

Students from SMU’s master of arts in design and innovation will be working on the chamber-led project.

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