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International conference hosted by Birmingham lauds Alabama as ‘epicenter for industrial innovation’

The Frontier 2021, a groundbreaking international industrial innovation conference, is less than a month away. However, even after the event has concluded, The Frontier is set to leave an indelible mark on Alabama.

This year’s version of the conference will be the inaugural time that Birmingham serves as its host site. The Magic City, monikered for its legacy stemming from the industrial revolution, was slated to first host The Frontier last spring, however the COVID-19 pandemic had other plans. Following a 12-month postponement, the conference will be presented virtually from Birmingham April 13-April 14.

The Frontier is the nation’s only conference focused on emerging technologies for all key industrial sub-sectors.

The conference seeks to provide “access to a network of the world’s cutting-edge thought leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, executives, visionaries and investors to cross-pollinate ideas, rethink the future of industrials and build a nationwide industrial innovation ecosystem.”

Hank Torbert, founder of The Frontier, told Yellowhammer News that the conference was originally drawn to the Yellowhammer State in part due to “Alabama Power’s interest and support of our goal of building an ecosystem of innovation leaders.”

“We view Birmingham as the heart of an industrial innovation ecosystem that has all of the major industrial sectors,” added Torbert. Those sectors include transportation, manufacturing, energy/utilities and water management, among others.

Since choosing Birmingham to host the annual conference, Torbert advised that The Frontier has received “amazing support” from the major stakeholders in the area’s innovation ecosystem, including Alabama Power Company, the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, Birmingham Business Alliance, Economic Development Association of Alabama, Techstars Alabama and state and local governmental partners.

You can register for The Frontier 2021 here.

However, even after the event’s latest iteration has come and gone, The Frontier will be here to stay in the “Silicon Valley of the South.”

“As the epicenter of industrial innovation, Birmingham is the ideal host city for the conference, which will go beyond a learning and networking destination but a hub for ongoing conversation,” Torbert added. “More than just an event, the Frontier is a network where leaders in industrial innovation collaborate and cultivate a dynamic ecosystem across the Southeast.“

According to an internal document furnished by the conference’s leadership, The Frontier is “committed to positioning Alabama as a keystone in the broader innovation and entrepreneurship economy.”

The conference will help increase Alabama’s visibility across the U.S. and beyond, including with angel networks, venture capitalists, universities, research organizations, incubators, other conferences and venture challenges. The Frontier refers to the state as “the epicenter for industrial innovation in the Gulf Region.”

Per the conference, “Alabama already has all of the raw materials of a dynamic industrial innovation ecosystem.”

Those existing assets are reportedly as follows:

  • Unparalleled industrials and energy sector prowess with a global reach
  • Local and State Government are focused on “enabling” Alabama’s economy
  • Strong universities and research institutions with vital engineering,
  • Strong and growing corporate base and industry diversification
  • Diverse demographics (race, income, nationality, et. al.) are a key asset

The Frontier, which also views itself as a community in addition to a once-per-year conference, plans on fostering entrepreneurship within and around Birmingham, as well as increasing the area’s access to capital.

“The Frontier will facilitate the transfer and commercialization of technology from Alabama’s research universities and federal labs into the marketplace and to assist in the creation and growth of technology-based businesses focused on innovation in the industrials and energy sectors,” The Frontier pledges. “The Frontier can serve as the hub of Alabama’s industrial innovation entrepreneurial network where start-ups find mentors, organizational assistance, facilities for daily operations, and a roadmap for success by leveraging the State’s core focus on industrials and energy.”

The Frontier’s key goals include the following:

  • Position Alabama for growth through accelerating efforts to sustain a knowledge-dependent, global, entrepreneurial economy driven by innovation
  • Build on and protect leading drivers of economic growth, (e.g. manufacturing, agribusiness, energy, shipping/transportation and other industrials sectors)
  • Embrace regional and economic diversity by investing in and transforming Alabama’s traditional sectors through emerging technologies
  • Create an inclusive, transformative economy that allows all of Alabama’s residents to benefit from the state’s growth and prosperity

“The dynamic discussions generated by The Frontier contribute to the larger, global conversation about industrial innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Greg Barker, president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama. “Bringing together innovation leaders from across the country to Birmingham provides tremendous opportunity for collaboration and growth in our state and region.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

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