Entrepreneur Quarterly STL (EQSTL) recently published a four-part series detailing the past, present, and future of the Cortex Innovation Community. Plenty of articles have been written about the community, but this series provides a remarkably fresh and comprehensive look at Cortex and its place in St. Louis.
Writer Mary Mack begins the story at the close of the 1990s when St. Louis saw many of its anchor companies get bought out, or flee town.
“If St. Louis were to remain a player on the national and global business stage, the focus needed to shift,” Mack wrote.
The first step toward forming the Cortex Innovation Community was the construction of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, a project that capitalized on the city’s strengths in medical and plant sciences.
“Coming off of that project, Danforth, along with a group of civic and business leaders including representatives from local universities, BJC HealthCare and the Missouri Botanical Gardens, looked to invigorate the region’s biotech industry even further,” Mack wrote.
Danforth and John Dubinsky, now the chairman of the Cortex board, visited M.I.T.’s Kendall Square for inspiration. Mack describes the area as a breeding ground for innovators and entrepreneurs that’s sometimes called “the most innovative square mile on the planet.” After seeing the success of Kendall Square on the East Coast, the duo, along with other community leaders, were determined to bring a similar innovative space to St. Louis.
“In an effort to work together toward this goal, five founding partners came together: Washington University, Saint Louis University, University of Missouri-St. Louis, BJC HealthCare and the Missouri Botanical Garden. A 501c3 was established, and Cortex was born,” wrote Mack.
The series goes on to chronicle the community’s evolution. Mack explores topics like the decision to establish within city limits, the post-recession pivot into a mixed-used district, and the next phase of the community – Cortex 3.0. It’s a fascinating blueprint for how a few people with a big idea can reinvigorate a city.
To brush up on your St. Louis history and get an exciting look into the future of the community, check out Entrepreneur Quarterly STL’s new series.