Grantee Profile: Center on Rural Innovation

Tech connects us. So many of the greatest technological innovations of the past two decades have offered people around the world new ways to connect to each other. Yet, there are still too many people outside of Silicon Valley who remain disconnected from the economic opportunity that the new innovation economy provides. Many communities and regions whose economic resilience centered around industries like manufacturing are less competitive and able to adapt as the pace of change continues to accelerate.

The Center on Rural Innovation (CORI) aims to change this reality. Based in a historic general store in the village of Hartland Three Corners, Vermont, CORI identifies rural regions that are poised for revitalization — communities facing economic distress, depreciated real estate values, a decline of working-age families, and falling wages. Leveraging data analytics as well as partnerships with tech industry and community leaders, CORI is piloting “innovation hubs” in towns where they see an immediate potential for spurring innovation, creating new jobs and investing in human capacity to fill them. The approach works on both sides of the equation: by creating the space for new employers to thrive and training locals to be able to work in a new and changing job market.

SFE has partnered with CORI on a pilot project in Springfield, Vermont. CORI will build a start-up accelerator in collaboration with Dartmouth College’s computer science program, and develop a technology “campus” around it in order to attract established companies and help accelerator graduates stay in the region. Simultaneously, they’ll work with Springfield schools to develop a system-wide computer science education program that includes experiential learning opportunities at the accelerator itself. This multi-pronged approach will create jobs and a talent pipeline, and give students, employers, and entrepreneurs the skills and opportunities they need to apply their learning in a meaningful way within their community.