Indianapolis: Emerging IoT hub and tech talent breeding ground

Indianapolis is in the heart of Indiana, and has a population of 820,000, comparable to Amsterdam. Indianapolis, or “Indy” as residents lovingly call the city, has long been known as an industrial hub where air-conditioners and car parts were made, but the economy is changing fast.

The life sciences sector is booming, particularly around orthopedics and drug development for metabolic disorders. Meanwhile, tech talent is moving here to stay. Indeed, Indianapolis is on its way to becoming a major tech hub in the Midwest!

Indianapolis skyline

High-tech comeback of manufacturing

Indianapolis has been the birthplace of many generations of car parts and electronic household equipment. Yet productivity and technological advances in traditional automotive and manufacturing industries cost the region 16,000 jobs between 2005 and 2015 (almost 15 percent of its total).

To overcome this decline, Indianapolis has taken major strides to diversify its economy. This is reflected by the emergence of clusters for technology, digital marketing, financial services, and a growing life sciences sector. Entrepreneurial scenes are growing in advanced manufacturing and high-tech industries. This includes the application of tech to automotive, life science, agribusiness, aerospace, and motor sports.

Connectivity at the cross-roads

Indianapolis is a traditional transportation hub, the product of the golden days of manufacturing. A complex network of rail lines, interstate highways, two airports (one of which is international), public buses, and a heliport form the core of Indy’s infrastructural connectivity.

To complement traditional large-scale infrastructure, local car- and bike-share systems are operational. While the extent of the network of bike lanes and walking trails is unique in the United States, the brand-new Cultural Trail is the most well-known. These are indications of a paradigm shift, where mobility is seen as a service. 

Digital connectivity is increasing as well. AT&T announced Indianapolis as one of its first two testbeds for the new 5G-network early 2017. The speed of this new 5G-connection was successfully tested during the 101st running edition of the Indy 500, the world’s largest single-day sports event. The race even featured a 5G-enabled virtual reality headset and camera on top of a racing car, for people to experience the race in real-time from the driver’s perspective.


Mobility as a service: 300 electric cars are scattered across Indianapolis as part of car-sharing program BlueIndy.

Digital acceleration

Indianapolis was among the finalists of the 2016 US Smart City Challenge, which Columbus, Ohio, won. Between upgrading the road network and personalizing mobility services, the submission to the challenge outlined strategies to turn the city into a Smart Corridor. With public transit and communication technology at the heart of these strategies, inclusiveness and connectedness are key.

But this was only the beginning of Indy’s transition to a smart city. Innovation in water, energy and mobility sectors in Indianapolis/Marion County were awarded with a Smart Cities Council Readiness Challenge Grant alongside cities of Austin, Miami, Orlando and Philadelphia in early 2017.

The recent launch of America’s first fully electrified rapid transit system may have been decisive, although Indianapolis’ rapidly evolving digital infrastructure is a contributor as well.

Room for innovation

Startups will be interested to know that Indianapolis provides an environment conducive to innovation. When Indy residents are boasting about the speed and ease of doing business in their city, they can back this up with numerous US rankings of business climate.

Public-private partnerships, a go-to approach to cross-cutting challenges within the Netherlands, are not common in the US, but Indianapolis is a notable exception. The power of partnership has been demonstrated in transforming mobility and economic development in the Indy region alike.

To illustrate, the City of Indianapolis and the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute are jointly investing more than $180 million in the redevelopment of a historic industrial site to build a brand-new innovation hub.

In promoting innovation, social inclusion of communities that are located around the site is another core element of the project. 16 Tech will provide the space and the resources for startups and IT providers to develop scalable solutions in the areas of IoT, AgTech, pharma, BioTech, robotics, etc.

16 Tech

Development plan for innovation hub 16 Tech.

Business culture

The warmth and sincerity of the people we met in Indianapolis was a huge part of what made our visit enjoyable. The business culture is characterized by strong networks across sectors. The people of Indy are willing to break down silos to solve problems. From an economic development perspective, talent is recognized as the No. 1 driver of the economy by organizations such as the Indy Chamber and the Indiana Regional Development Corporation.

On top of that, organizations like TechPoint are dedicated to promoting and accelerating the growth of Indiana’s tech community. For example, TechPoint partnered with the Venture Club of Indiana to organize the first edition of inX3, a week-long entrepreneurial gathering on all things tech and innovation in April 2017.

In luring tech professionals to the city, talent attraction and retention efforts have already started to pay dividends.

CG in Indianapolis

Consul General Louis Piët discusses economic development in the Indy region with Mayor Angela Smith-Jones and her team.

Stay tuned

Are you interested in doing business in Indianapolis? Do not hesitate to contact us for more information or advice on opportunities and the business climate. We are here to help!