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Science Center VP Chris Laing tapped to lead new Austin innovation org

A newly formed innovation org based in Austin, Texas, poached some Philly talent in University City Science Center exec Christopher Laing.

Laing, an Australian expat who was with the University City org for 11 years — most recently as Vice President of Science and Technology — will be the first executive director of nonprofit Capital City Innovation, which will be based out of the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas.

“It’s a role that’s focused on helping to align big players like medical schools in Austin with other stakeholders in business and government around the vision for a healthcare-focused innovation zone,” Laing told

If the mission sounds similar to that of the Science Center, that’s because it is. The main difference being the specific healthcare focus and that its a brand-new effort.

“What drew me to this job is that it’s an exciting blank page in healthcare innovation,” said Laing. But rather than repeat the Science Center playbook deep in the heart of Texas, the exec said his new gig will mean finding an approach that fits with Austin’s specific ecosystem.

When asked about the tasks pending from his time in Philly (a city the Sydney native calls his “U.S. hometown”), he’s quick to point one out:

“What’s left to be done is move Philly to a more prominent role in the list of world’s greatest innovation and tech centers,” said Laing. “There’s not a regret, but I feel I’m leaving at a time when Philly’s putting itself into high gear.”

He points to the Science Center’s role as a convener as one of the things he’s most proud of during his work there.

Any final word of advice? He rejects the word advice, but shares a philosophy that Philly may want to heed.

“We shouldn’t be afraid of healthy competition,” the exec said. “Collaboration isn’t the same as creating a monopoly. Having more diverse players in the ecosystem is good for Philly and will increase opportunity for collaboration. Sometimes I hear a bit of a belief that because we’re not all working on the same thing, we aren’t collaborating enough. I don’t think that’s true.”

Laing starts his new gig Sept. 1 and wrapped things up here July 31. The Science Center’s already missing him.

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Kristen Fitch

Senior Director, Marketing