Destination Kansas City

The Kansas City area has many advocacy organizations working to make the region a destination for technology and science-based businesses and entrepreneurs.

Innovation, Technology & Tech Transfer

Although most think of technological innovation and transfer in relation to the life sciences—and often for good reason—metropolitan Kansas City has a number of outstanding examples that go beyond even that highly visible area.

One of the most dramatic stories involves Olathe-based Garmin International. Founded in 1989 by a small group of engineers, the company literally began in a garage. Using once-secret military technology that utilizes orbiting satellites global positioning system (GPS) for everything from tracking rental cars to navigating hikers, Garmin is a poster child for entrepreneurial spirit and innovation—and typical of many Kansas City success stories.

Other successful blends of science and economics involve everything from cutting edge cardiac surgery to pet health. Significantly, a number of these involve inventive enterprises in a community that has an historic track record for successfully nurturing entrepreneurial efforts. Cerner Corporation and its medical technology, and the original Marion Laboratory, founded by Ewing Kauffman, blossomed decades apart, but are illustrative of dozens of similar success stories. Not coincidently, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation today continues to promise entrepreneurial efforts.

Much of today’s innovation, technology and transfer are institutionally supported. Though often laboring less visibly, dozens of public and private organizations support efforts promoting scientific application and related commercial activity.

Garmin International, now a $1 billion company, was founded in a garage in 1989.

The most visible is the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute, a non-profit helping to transform KC into a center for excellence in life sciences research and development.    

The Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation (KTEC) is a state-owned corporation promoting advanced technology economic development. KTEC has designed and built a statewide network to support researchers, entrepreneurs and businesses through each phase of the technology life cycle.

The state of Kansas more recently created the Kansas Bioscience Authority, which oversees a $500 million investment in bioscience research and commercialization.

Still other examples include the University of Kansas’ Higuchi Biosciences Center (HBC), where scientists conduct research in basic biomedical problems, bioanalytical chemistry, drug delivery systems, neurological sciences and immunology. Many HBC-affiliated scientists work closely with companies to license and commercialize technologies developed in HBC laboratories.

Others focus directly on the common ground of innovation and entrepreneurship. Although it operates in several fields, KCSourceLink connects emerging and existing small businesses to nonprofit resource partners in the broad Kansas City region. The Lawrence Life Sciences Center is designed to intermingle firms focused on life sciences, research, university spin-off companies and related support businesses on a site adjacent to the KU Life Sciences Research Laboratories and in collaboration with the University. And the Biotechnology Development Center of Greater Kansas City (BDC) is a community-based wet lab incubator that provides high-growth potential companies with the resources they need for the development and commercialization of bio-technology products and services.

All of this is based on a solid foundation of more than 60 libraries and scores of research centers located throughout the region. The Linda Hall Library of Science, Engineering & Technology is one of the largest privately endowed libraries of its kind in the country. Special collections include National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Department of Energy technical reports, Soviet and European scientific and technical publications, and U.S. patent specifications. The Kansas City Branch of the National Archives and Records Administration holds records of various federal government agencies.