The Bedrock of Colorado’s Health Innovation Ecosystem

Dec 13, 2016 | Blog

Colorado is the nation’s top health innovation ecosystem. I’ve made this claim on several occasions now, from the 2016 Prime Health Challenge, to our recent joint meet-up with TechrIoT.

On each occasion, I’ve presented the case for our status as the number one community of health innovators in the country. I’ve even written extensively on the subject, detailing my reasons for making this claim, while providing readers with a framework by which to assess and rank their own ecosystems.

But, as of yet, I haven’t discussed the economic conditions that have served as the bedrock of our community, haven’t addressed the underlying factors that have given rise to Colorado’s thriving health innovation ecosystem.

First among these is location. Statewide, Coloradans enjoy an average of 300 sunny days per year. To the west of Boulder, Rocky Mountain National Park annually attracts over three million visitors. And, only a short drive from Denver, several world-class ski resorts can be found. Our state’s climate, its natural beauty, and the active lifestyle they promote make Colorado a desirable destination for both established companies looking to re-locate, and young entrepreneurs looking to start-up.

Around the country, people are beginning to recognize this. According to the US Census Bureau, Colorado’s population increased by more than 100,000 residents in 2014, making it the nation’s second fastest growing state. Millennials constituted over ten percent of that population gain.

This is important to note, because Millennials are often digital natives. They use computers everyday, understand the need for strong interfaces, and appreciate a well-designed user experience. For tech companies, they represent the future.

Prompted by the mass migration of Millennials to Denver, US News & World Report recently ranked the city the best place to live in the country. When taken into account with the fact that Colorado is currently the nation’s second most educated state, the arrival of these digital natives further enhances an already formidable workforce – one that Forbes has named the nation’s top labor supply.

On their own, geographic, demographic, and economic factors of this kind would provide a sufficient basis for a thriving health innovation ecosystem anywhere. But Colorado possesses two other factors that make our ecosystem number one.

First, our state is a leading recipient of funding from the National Science Foundation. Why is this important? Public investment in the sciences is critical to the development of new technologies. And, if we’ve learned anything from the current boom in health innovation, it’s that new technologies – regardless of their industry of origin – have the potential to revolutionize healthcare by lowering costs, increasing satisfaction, and improving outcomes.

Our state is also home to the largest startup week in the country. This event annually convenes a community of entrepreneurs that spans the Front Range, from Fort Collins in the north, down through Boulder and Denver, to Colorado Springs in the south. By reinforcing our state’s culture of entrepreneurship, Denver Startup Week encourages a sense of solidarity among the members of Colorado’s booming entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Our state is a desirable location. It’s the top destination for young professionals. It’s the recipient of hundreds of millions of dollars in research funding. And it’s home to a thriving startup community.

Taken together, these factors represent the bedrock of our health innovation ecosystem. They ensure a consistent stream of talented innovators into our community. They allow companies to form and grow with fewer obstacles. They permit the development of innovation support systems like the Boomtown Health-Tech Accelerator, 10.10.10 Health, Prime Health, and Catalyst HTI. And they encourage successful entrepreneurs to pursue their next ventures here in Colorado, with innovators from digital health giants like iTriage, Trizetto, and HealthGrades staying in our state to launch startups like DispatchHealth, ListenMD, and MDValuate.

With a foundation like this below our feet, is it any wonder we’re number one?

Jeffrey Nathanson
President & CEO
Prime Health