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Alabama Innovation Commission hones its focus

By WILL WHATLEY, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – An interim report from the newly formed Alabama Innovation Commission reveals how the group plans to focus on certain issues to help spur growth.

The commission, also known as Innovate Alabama, released its interim report and policy recommendations last month. The group was created by Gov. Kay Ivey in July 2020 as the state’s first commission focused on innovation, technology and entrepreneurship. 

According to the report, the group will focus its efforts on four topics: to develop a statewide innovation coordination and incentive structure; provide for a private fund adviser exemption; fund and launch an Alabama branding campaign; and, enable small business matching funds.

The interim report also shares an update on the commission’s partnership with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Through this partnership, the commission and the Hoover Institution will help develop data-supported, well-researched and innovative policy solutions to support the growth of Alabama’s innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The institution gave the commission a “framework for approaching research” and examined five areas: assessing development opportunities as a process instead of a singular event; measuring who and what you have in the state; taking an ecological approach; identifying competitive advantages and benchmarking against national examples; and, focusing on both short-term wins and long-term goals.

Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, serves as chair of Innovate Alabama and Sen. Greg Reed,R-Jasper, serves as vice chair, overseeing the commission’s 15 members. The group also includes a six-member advisory council of innovation leaders in Alabama and those outside the state who have strong ties to Alabama. Zeke Smith, Alabama Power Executive Vice President of External Affairs, serves as president of the advisory council which includes innovation experts from both the state and the country who have ties to Alabama.

“I am pleased with the progress of the Alabama Innovation Commission and look forward to continuing to work together to create smart solutions that expand the state’s economic growth and create opportunities for those wanting to start and grow a business in Alabama,” Poole said in a written statement. “While there is still much work to be done, the interim ideas and recommendations already set forth show how the work of this commission will have a positive impact on the state.”

“Alabama has always had a strong foundation of innovation, and the work of the commission is highlighting the potential our state has for growth in becoming a leader in technology and entrepreneurship,” Reed said. “As our state continues to adapt and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the commission’s ideas and recommendations will play a role in ensuring that our state has a competitive economic edge moving forward.”

According to the group, it “brings together private-sector experts and policymakers to develop forward-thinking policies that will create a more resilient, inclusive, and robust economy to remain competitive in a 21st century world.”

Charged with conceptualizing key components to expand economic opportunities in the state, Innovate Alabama held a series of meetings and generated ideas to elevate innovation and create new policies and initiatives. These meetings are already producing some ideas.

“The collaboration and meaningful discussions of the commission and the advisory council have been extremely insightful and productive,” Smith said. “Through partnerships with the Hoover Institution and momentum already created with the commission’s interim report, I look forward to continuing these efforts in 2021 as we work toward developing solutions that will create success and opportunity across the state.”

The commission will hold its second meeting on March 15. For more information on Innovate Alabama or its interim report, visit

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