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Arkansas Innovation Council Takes Flight at Inaugural Summit

On February 19, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and Winrock’s Innovate Arkansas took an important step to expand Arkansas’ knowledge-based economy with the launch of the Arkansas Innovation Council. This new initiative will tap into the combined insights and innovation of the state’s established industry leaders and its burgeoning startup community. Comprised of key leaders from Arkansas businesses, research universities, philanthropic organizations and state agencies, the council gathered for the first time to begin mapping the future of innovation in Arkansas.

Gov. Hutchinson, who chairs the council, kicked off the summit by thanking members for their commitment and an audience of entrepreneurship influencers for their support. But he wasted no time in setting the stage for results by outlining his vision for the council.

“I was asked very astutely by [Tyson Foods President and CEO] Noel White, ‘What’s the goal? What are we trying to accomplish here?’” Hutchinson began.

Hutchinson explained the complementary roles of the state’s large technology-focused companies and its startup community before focusing on two specific goals: better supporting those companies to ensure they have the talent and resources they need for the future, and better supporting the entrepreneurial technology community in Arkansas.

While acknowledging past and ongoing efforts that have set the stage for continued innovation, Hutchinson stressed, “My goal is for us to determine what the gaps are for the future and what we can do better as a state. How can we help each other achieve our mutual goals? This council will require a focused and sustained partnership in order to identify gaps and the new ideas, initiatives to help us establish a strategic plan with specific recommendations.”

Arkansas has a well-diversified economy, which makes the state resilient to shocks. Gov. Hutchinson expressed his goal to add technology companies as a new pillar to Arkansas’ economic diversity.

David Sanders, Executive Director of Innovate Arkansas at Winrock International

David Sanders, Director of Innovate Arkansas at Winrock International, spoke about Innovation in Arkansas and elaborated on the interrelationship between established industry leaders and Arkansas’ entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The council will focus on innovation in industry sectors in which Arkansas leads nationally and globally, as well as those that are crucial to the lives of its citizens: retail and retail technology; transportation, distribution, and logistics; agriculture, food processing, forestry and natural resources; healthcare and biosciences; financial services; data sciences, advanced analytics and software development; and energy and power electronics.

Ross DeVol, a Walton Fellow with the Walton Family Foundation, is a member of the Arkansas Innovation Council.

Council member Ross DeVol, a Walton Fellow with the Walton Family Foundation, shared research and insights on the current status of the knowledge-based economy, including challenges that Arkansas must address as well as unique opportunities for innovation and growth.

From Left: Dr. Cam Patterson, April Seggebruch, Elliott Parker, Dr. Richard Brown, Mark Mason, Stan Green.

Stan Green, of Winrock’s Innovate Arkansas team, moderated a panel to explore the components of a thriving, knowledge-based economy, featuring:

    • Richard Brown, Dean, College of Engineering, University of Utah
    • Mark Mason, Prinicipal and Founder, Affirma Consulting
    • Elliott Parker, Managing Director, Corporate Innovation, High Alpha Venture Studio
    • Cam Patterson, Chancellor, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
    • April Seggebruch, Co-Founder, Movista


Governor Asa Hutchinson

Gov. Hutchinson returned to the stage to deliver the keynote of the Summit, in which he elaborated on the key points of his welcome address: success of past efforts, his vision for the future of Arkansas’ knowledge-based economy and the objectives of the Arkansas Innovation Council.


The founding members of the Arkansas Innovation Council are:

Dr. Donald R. Bobbitt, President, University of Arkansas System

Albert Braunfisch, Chairman, MSpark

Amy Callahan, Cofounder, Collective Bias

Ross DeVol, Walton Fellow, Walton Family Foundation

William T. Dillard, III, Executive Vice President, Dillard’s Inc.

George Dunklin, Jr., Dunklin Farms

Richard Howe, CEO, Inuvo

Doug McMillon, President and Chief Executive Officer, Walmart Inc.

Judy McReynolds, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, ArcBest Corporation

Jeffrey W. Nolan, President and Chief Executive Officer, Loutre Land and Timber Company

Dr. Cam Patterson, Chancellor, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Mike Preston, Executive Director, Arkansas Economic Development Commission

John Rutledge, President, First Security Bank, Little Rock

Cheryl Schluterman, Interim President, Arkansas Development Finance Authority

Josh Smith, Chief Executive Officer, Metova, Inc.

Warren Stephens, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Stephens, Inc.

Dr. Chuck Welch, President, Arkansas State University System

Troy Wells, President and CEO, Baptist Health

Noel White, President and CEO, Tyson Foods Inc.

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