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IDEA Week 2019 to take narrower focus, emphasize impact over attendance

| Monday, March 4, 2019

The first annual IDEA Week in 2018 aimed to create awareness about the principles of innovation and entrepreneurship. This year, the event will focus on specific industries that the IDEA Center and its community partners believe will be important for the future of both Notre Dame and the surrounding South Bend-Elkhart community.

IDEA Week executive director Nick Swisher said last year’s attendance was much greater than expected, but that the executive committee hopes to shift the focus from numbers to impact this year.

“We needed a big splash last year because we needed the community and the University’s students, faculty and staff to kind of understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” Swisher said.

IDEA Week will take place from April 8 to 13 and will include over 60 events that are split into four categories: learn, meet, play and compete.

“Last year the events committee was a little messy to be honest and did not have a clear vision,” executive committee member Iris Hammel said.

This year, the executive committee talked to industry leaders and chose themes for each day of IDEA Week.

One day will focus on Industry 4.0, which Swisher described as “basically the future of manufacturing — manufacturing that uses automation, robots and smart machines.”

There will also be a day focused on blockchain, a computer technology that manages records of data stored in a network.

“There’s a huge need to promote computer science and promote looking at things that are actually coming down the pike in the future that our region might be a little bit behind on,” Hammel said.  “The Midwest, in general, is a little bit behind with blockchain, and so bringing that in was really important.”

Instead of covering broad themes of innovation and entrepreneurship as IDEA Week did last year, this year the event will have a more narrow focus, Swisher said.

“The reason why [the week is being structured in this way is] because those are the industries that we believe are going to be important in the South Bend-Elkhart region and Notre Dame going forward,” he said.  “It might be that we have less people this year but we should have more people that have impact and outcomes that are on top of mind.”

Both Hammel and Swisher stressed that IDEA Week is not solely run by Notre Dame — it is a partnership between the IDEA Center and the community.

“IDEA Week is not just an event for the community,” Swisher said. “It truly is now being run by the community with Notre Dame.”

The IDEA Center’s mission is economic development, both at Notre Dame as well as in the surrounding region, and the play element of IDEA Week is no exception to this goal.

The play element of IDEA Week will include five acts: Jim Gaffigan, Michael Carbonaro, Ali Wong, Scotty McCreery and Tim McGraw.

Comedian Jim Gaffigan will perform at the Morris Performing Arts Center in South Bend as a pre-IDEA Week event on March 6, but the rest of the acts will take place during IDEA Week.

After Garth Brooks’ concert at Notre Dame Stadium this past October, the announcement of two more country artists coming to the South Bend area for IDEA Week has garnered a lot of attention among the student population at Notre Dame.

Swisher said there were two reasons another country artist was chosen after choosing Tim McGraw to perform at Purcell Pavilion.

“After we announced Tim McGraw, we literally even flew to California to meet with talent agencies,” Swisher said. “It was really difficult to get a non-country act at this time. It was not because these acts were not interested — it was all because of timing.”

The second reason is simply that country music is popular in this region, which the IDEA Center concluded from a scientifically valid poll, Swisher said.

“We spent a grand total of $4,000 in marketing expenses for Tim McGraw and he sold out,” Swisher said. “That’s remarkable. That just tells you how easy it is to sell country in this area.”

Swisher said more was spent on expenses for the Chainsmokers’ concert last year during IDEA Week, and the show did not sell out.

With the aim of bringing startups and high-tech companies to the South Bend-Elkhart area, the IDEA Center is also seeking to draw highly educated millennials to the region, Swisher said.

“Millennials are really looking at a very multi-faceted approach to where they’re going to live, Swisher said. “They want to live in places that have lots of fun things to do.”

Consequently, the IDEA Center is partnering with VenueND to host events and concerts outside of IDEA Week.

“Jim Gaffigan is our first non-IDEA Week event, and we have others in the works,” Swisher said.

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