During Orlando’s inaugural MetaCenter Global Week, many brilliant minds came together to discuss the future of technology in Central Florida, and what those upcoming changes mean for industry and consumers. However, during the “Enterprise Bigs & Entrepreneurs Innovate in the Same Sandbox” discussion, focus turned toward the “power of partnering”, and how small businesses can work with, and alongside, corporate counterparts.


The discussion was led by Paul Sohl, CEO of the Florida High Tech Corridor. He asked his co-panelists a series of questions regarding collaboration, community, and innovation between enterprise “bigs” and up-and-coming entrepreneurs.


The conversation began with innovation, and according to John Fremstad, director of innovation at Duke Energy, innovation starts with Duke. “Everything we have and will talk about this week wouldn’t turn on if it weren’t for electricity,” stated Fremstad. “Everything we’re talking about here runs on some form of electricity, and we’re taking electricity further in the form of new technologies like electric vehicles.”


He explained that while there is a push for innovation, a thriving community demands support and participation.  “We don’t want to be redundant and create programs that already exist in this space. We want to support community programs that already do it well.”


Supporting innovation through community programs is second nature to Orlando Health. Riham Hanna, director of product development and program management at Orlando Health, has spent most of her time with the company helping promote the innovative ideas that come from within. “You hear about these large medical device companies, but the ideas come from hospitals,” said Hanna.  “They come from physicians, clinicians, and everyone else who does this day-to-day.”


Orlando Health decided to live in that environment, listening to the ideas of those who’d benefit the most. While most innovation centers will license an idea or sell it off, Orlando Health is working to see these projects all the way through to the FDA. Orlando Health also ensures that the clinicians who develop these ideas are included in “innovation agreements” that see them receiving a huge profit in return for their ideas, motivating people to speak up and involve themselves in their organization.


However, for smaller companies looking to get involved, partnering with Orlando Health is highly recommended. “You have all of these ideas, which function like mini companies,” said Hanna. “In order for these ideas to be successful, they have to branch out to be their own little satellite companies working under the umbrella of Orlando Health.” The support of smaller companies taking these ideas and functioning under the umbrella of Orlando Health becomes a symbiotic relationship within the greater community.


Nicholas Abrahams, senior vice president of partnerships and regional investment with the Orlando Economic Partnership, follows up on the benefits of such a relationship. Abrahams said that large enterprises have a responsibility to share assets with their communities to help move Orlando, and the rest of the world, forward. However, despite their assets, larger companies struggle with mobility. Smaller organizations are able to pivot in ways that larger ones cannot, giving them an advantage in the innovation process. The other panelists agreed, with Fremstad stating that “small businesses have an ability to go and do things quickly, getting larger businesses to a product so they can either partner or purchase.”


The panel concluded with an agreement that partnerships between organizations are the most effective conduit for innovation. An eagerness to collaborate will only prove to be beneficial, and is the only way that communities will continue to grow and evolve.

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