The Innovation Depot is a combined facility for the City of Birmingham's Entrepreneurial Center and UAB's Office for the Advancement of Developing Industries (OADI). The two centers have worked together under the Entrepreneurial Center's management since 2001. The new facility is located in the former downtown Sears store at 1500 1st Avenue North, on the block between 1st and 2nd Avenue North and 14th and 16th Streets. The building was gutted and renovated at a cost of $17 million for the center. The architects for the renovation were Williams-Blackstock with Brice Building Company as the general contractor and Brantley Visioneering as the construction manager.
The building's architectural design won an Honor Citation from the Gulf States chapter of the American Institute of Architects and a Merit Award for Adaptive Reuse from AIA Birmingham. It opened in 2007 with chief executive Susan Matlock at the helm. Devon Laney assumed that role after Matlock's retirement in 2014. He was succeeded by Drew Honeycutt in 2020.
The name "Innovation Depot" was chosen to reflect its proximity to Birmingham's Railroad Reservation, the "incubator" of industrial development in the late 19th century. The 145,000 square-foot facility was designed to house as many as 75 small businesses and employ as many as 500 workers. The center focuses on biotechnology start-ups and has 20,000 square feet of wet laboratory space and a shared equipment lab with an autoclave, centrifuge, low-temperature freezer and micro-optics.
Other service providers that are located in the building include the Alabama Small Business Development Center Network, the Alabama Procurement Technical Assistance Center, the Birmingham Business Resource Center, the Birmingham Venture Club, TechBirmingham, and the Alabama International Trade Center.
The Innovation Depot serves as an anchor for the city's proposed "Entrepreneurial District", which is reflected in the 2004 City Center Master Plan. According to the plan, the Innovation Depot will be connected across the Railroad Reservation and midtown to the UAB campus by a "green street" on 14th Street South which passes alongside the Railroad Park (opened in 2010). The entire district will have a special overlay zoning to encourage entrepreneurial activity as an engine for dense mid-rise urban development.
In March 2009 the Depot reported a "sales and earnings impact" of over $340 million for 2008. At that point the center was serving 55 client businesses with a combined payroll of over 350 employees. For 2009, the center's sales impact declined to $290 million while the number of client firms increased to 65. In 2010, the Depot went ahead with plans to complete the outfitting of still-unfinished areas and subdivide some existing spaces into smaller offices to reach a total capacity of 85 companies and around 600 employees. In March 2011, the sales and earnings impact was reported at over $1 billion for 2010. In 2018 the Innovation Depot claimed a five-year economic impact of $1.66 billion for the Birmingham area.
In 2011 Discovery BioMed, which designs and contracts human cell-based drug discovery and development programs, became the first company to formally "graduate" from the center's program, moving to offices in the Riverhills Business Park Inverness.
- Slay, Marti Webb (June 2006) "Innovation Depot Breaks New Ground for Birmingham Biotech." Birmingham Medical News
- Ray, Buddy (June 6, 2006) "Birmingham's Innovation Depot." Southeast Innovations
- Cooper, Lauren B. (May 5, 2008) "Williams Blackstock wins regional award for Innovation Depot design." The Birmingham News
- Kent, Dawn (March 21, 2009) "Birmingham, Alabama's Innovation Depot builds on big economic impact." The Birmingham News
- Wolfson, Hannah (August 16, 2009) "UAB ideas turn into jobs at Innovation Depot in Birmingham." The Birmingham News
- Tomberlin, Michael (March 18, 2010) "Birmingham's Innovation Depot is mother hen to start-ups." The Birmingham News
- Diel, Stan (October 1, 2010) "Downtown Birmingham's Innovation Depot to add offices." The Birmingham News
- Tomberlin, Michael (March 10, 2011) "Incubator claims $1B impact." The Birmingham News
- Chambers, Jesse (November 14, 2018) "CEO: Innovation Depot helped revitalize part of downtown." Iron City Ink