Spotlight On: Cortex Innovation Community

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Founded 20 years ago through a collaboration of Washington University, BJC HealthCare, University of Missouri – St. Louis, Saint Louis University and the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Cortex Innovation Community is an internationally recognized, 200-acre urban hub of innovation and entrepreneurship focused on accelerating inclusive economic growth in St. Louis. As a place for big thinkers and risk takers, the district strives to create a space where businesses and the people who create, work for and access them are supported to help make the region globally competitive.

Cortex Innovation Community was pleased to participate in the 2021 St. Louis Green Business Challenge with a focus the development of a districtwide Sustainability Plan. During the Challenge, Cortex Innovation Community earned the esteemed title of Challenge Champion for completing work with the Leader scorecard and committing to continued implementation of deeper sustainability strategies.

The framework for the Cortex Sustainability Plan will help guide future decision-making and provide a structure and roadmap to improve the health of their environment and community. Part of the strategy focuses on supporting and partnering with regional sustainability organizations to add value to their ongoing goals and objectives, while leveraging existing initiatives and using the hub for innovation and a testing ground for new technologies. Other areas of focus for the Sustainability Plan include District Building Design Standards (for tenants); Placemaking & Landscaping; Regeneration & Living Infrastructure; Mobility & Transportation; Energy & Emissions; Waste & Circular Economy; Food & Nutrition; Beauty & Vibrancy and more.

Among Cortex Innovation Community’s other impressive accomplishments to receive recognition in the Challenge was a collaboration with Native Landscape Solutions to plant native Missouri prairie grass to help restore biodiversity and soil health to a section of the Cortex Commons. Another partnership with PocketParks helped to create a sunflower field on the long vacant block at Forest Park and Vandeventer Avenues, while an additional partnership was forged with Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) to organize a trash pick-up event for the district.

To further reduce environmental impact, Cortex Innovation Community also installed eight electric vehicle chargers on the first floor of their parking garage to make it easier for the community to adopt the use of electric vehicles, which are better for the air because they reduce the amount of harmful CO2 emissions released into the atmosphere.

The Clean Air Partnership is delighted to recognize the efforts of entities such as the Cortex Innovation Community that continue to take action for cleaner air by channeling their time and energy towards practicing sustainability. For additional information on how your company can get involved in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge, subscribe to their weekly E-Newsletter or visit To learn more about the link between sustainability and air quality, explore our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.