Northwest Tennessee will pursue an innovation strategy that utilizes the region's natural resources, synergies with higher education and its proximity to larger markets.

The following strategies are recommended:

Develop innovative ways to leverage local assets in agriculture, natural resources, and energy: Northwest Tennessee's agrarian features are positioning the region to become a hub of innovation. The strategic location of the Port of Cates Landing on the Mississippi River opens the Northwest region to global transportation, distribution and manufacturing opportunities. Northwest Tennessee will support the development of new products and the creation and recruitment of companies that leverage the region’s rich water, agricultural and natural resources. The region will facilitate the establishment of a consortium of leaders in the agribusiness and energy sectors that will support these efforts and provide industry-specific resources and access to expertise in these particular fields. Such a specialization will distinguish Northwest Tennessee from other regions and help attract early-stage capital.

UT Martin, Bethel University and Dyersburg State – which house Northwest Tennessee’s most natural constituencies and assets for innovation – will partner with the agribusiness/energy consortium to spearhead these efforts. These organizations will build connections between the agricultural, finance, entrepreneurial, academic and relevant industrial communities in order to support research, development, technology transfer and commercialization in the agriculture and energy sector. Both Dyersburg State Community College (DSCC) and the University of Tennessee at Martin (UTM) already offer dual admission options (a 2 + 2 curriculum that provides students with a seamless transfer) to students in agribusiness and agri-production (including biomass crops and biofuels). Northwest Tennessee’s innovation leadership will explore other potential partnerships with Memphis Bioworks Foundation and its agricultural division – AgBioworks – organizations already pursing many of the same green economy objectives throughout the Mississippi Delta region.

A recent study by the Memphis Bioworks Foundation projected the creation of nearly 50,000 direct and indirect jobs in the next two decades in the bioprocessing industry. If the region leverages its natural resources and agricultural expertise to develop the sustainable resources, foods, biofuels and bio-based materials that are of increasing global importance such high ambitions can be achieved.

Pursue creating Digital Factories to provide innovationbased employment opportunities for a future generation of workers: Leaders within other regions of the state have developed a model for creating Digital Factories, which create job opportunities in rural areas. To date, the model has enabled call center and technical support work, formerly performed over seas, to be secured. This model necessitates the creation of a local partnership that can develop (a) a site suitable for establishing office infrastructure; (b) educational partners to develop the workforce; and (c) business relationships with enterprises willing to hire workers through the Digital Factory. The model is currently being explored in Gibson County in hopes that it can be replicated across the region as appropriate.

Regional partners will work to develop a team to monitor and research models currently being used to establish Digital Factories. Based on the relationships developed in this process, regional partners will work to create a business model that will support development and establishment of Digital Factories across the region. Successful model development will rely on best practices of other Digital Factories currently in use and identify the financial, technological and physical resources required. Based on these requirements, the region will work to develop partnerships that will meet these needs in a manner that could ensure Digital Factory replication in areas where manufacturing job opportunities may not currently exist.