By Dean Whittaker

Daniel Pink, in his book A Whole New Mind, states that we have entered the “Conception Age” in which ideas become the currency of the realm. Innovation has become an economic driver in this new economic age. Intellectual property is a bi-product of this focus on the application of knowledge.

InnovationWorks ( is a  new program funded by a WIRED (Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development) grant in West Michigan designed to connect ideas with companies that are interested in commercializing them.  As it says on its website, “Ideas that work are inventions, but they’re not innovations until they’ve been successfully commercialized.”  The purpose of InnovationWorks is to accelerate the business of invention as an economic development strategy.

InnovationWorks provides three basic functions: 1. mine for intellectual property through the Idea Portal; 2. connect with others through Collaborative Networks; and 3. get coaching from experts through Training and Events.

This bold experiment to stimulate the creation of jobs through innovation (the application and commercialization of ideas) is one to watch closely. This prototype model will likely spread to the rest of the country if successful. At the moment, the staff has been overwhelmed with the initial response; their current challenge is to respond to the large number of initial inquires.