InnovateUM 2018 to Envision Missoula’s Innovation Ecosystem

April 23, 2018

MISSOULA – Blurring the lines between the city, University and other sectors, this year’s innovateUM will explore an emerging opportunity to imagine and nurture a vibrant innovation ecosystem along Missoula’s stretch of the Clark Fork River.

On April 25, guest speakers from Finland’s Espoo Innovation Garden, Aalto Design Factory and Startup Sauna, as well as Google, Stanford and ClassPass will help facilitate community design labs and share bright lights from their communities that have successfully nurtured place-based, cross-sector innovation ecosystems.

Through interactive breakout sessions and facilitated design sprints, innovateUM’s 230 attendees and 35 local, national and international speakers, facilitators and guest designers will collaborate in envisioning Missoula’s own innovation corridor.

This year’s innovateUM is a collaboration between the UM Office of Research and Creative Scholarship and its Broader Impacts Group (BIG), as well as the City of Missoula in partnership with Blackfoot and the Finlandia Foundation of Montana.

A leader in co-creating cross-sector collective impact and ecosystem building initiatives with communities, BIG harnesses UM’s research and innovation to foster transformative change. Through its signature collective-impact efforts on the Flathead Reservation, in Missoula and the Bitterroot Valley, and through local and statewide programming, BIG engages over 200,000 Montanans annually. This community-based, co-created work is supported by an array of federal and private foundation grants in part to research, design and disseminate collective-impact approaches and emergent models.

“The Broader Impacts Group is honored to be convening our university and community with national and international innovators and design thinkers as we begin to imagine what it would look like to intentionally co-create Missoula’s innovation ecosystem,” said Holly Truitt, director of BIG and the spectrUM Discovery Area. “Our innovateUM community day on April 25 is the signature event to help innovators, change makers and thought leaders help the community and university work collectively.”

“InnovateUM seizes the opportunity to work together to refine Missoula’s vision for its future,” Missoula Mayor John Engen said. “We don’t have the luxury of drawing hard lines between community and university but, more than that, those lines don’t serve us well where they do exist. Together, we can make lives better for all Missoulians, and a grand vision comes with an open conversation like this one.”

“With the theme of ‘innovation runs through it,’ this year’s innovateUM will bring our community together to envision the innovation corridor that’s starting to form along our city’s stretch of the river,” said UM Vice President for Research and Creative Scholarship Scott Whittenburg. “We’re identifying and connecting existing assets and emerging opportunities, with the goal of intentionally aligning efforts across sectors.”

During a morning session focused on learning from existing innovation ecosystems locally, nationally and internationally, Espoo Innovation Garden’s Sini Liu, director of community at Startup Sauna, and Maria Mikkonen, a researcher at Aalto Design Factory, will share experiences and findings from their community’s cross-sector innovation model.

Engen and ClassPass CEO Fritz Lanman will hold a conversation about Missoula’s own innovation soils and why ClassPass decide to call Missoula home. Through breakout sessions moderated by local innovators and thought leaders, including Tom Bensen (Arts Missoula), Joe Fanguy and Jason Williams (Blackfoot), Karen Knudsen (Clark Fork Coalition) and Reed Humphrey (UM Health and Medicine initiative and UM College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences), attendees will explore and co-design specific opportunities to foster innovation and alignment between sectors.

Over a working lunch co-hosted by the Finlandia Foundation of Montana, design facilitator Blake Wigdahl will lead a community design sprint that engages community members in co-imagining and co-designing Missoula’s innovation ecosystem. Elysa Fenenbock, designer-in-residence at Google and an instructor at Stanford, will lead a complementary, place-based design workshop called “You Are Here: Setting Your Personal Intentions in Building Missoula’s Innovation Ecosystem.”

Findings and recommendations that emerge from the day will feed into a guiding document that will inform UM and Missoula’s long-range planning efforts. External evaluator Becky Carroll of Redwing Research will capture the day’s outcomes and feedback from participants, stakeholders and external guests. Drawing on Carroll’s research, the guiding document will be published online for community feedback in fall 2018.

InnovateUM’s morning session will take place from 9 a.m. to noon at the DoubleTree (100 Madison St.). The afternoon will resume at 12:30 p.m. at the Public House (130 E. Broadway St.) and conclude at 3 p.m. The event is fully booked, but the organizers are managing a wait list. To learn more or to join the wait list, visit


Contact: Holly Truitt, director, UM Broader Impacts Group and spectrUM Discovery Area, 406-243-4828,