Innovation & Entrepreneurship

By 2030, foster an ecosystem of innovation, research, education and entrepreneurship that creates living-wage jobs and a diversified economy.

Innovation and entrepreneurism can help build a diversified, resilient economy, and are key drivers to achieving Hawai‘i’s sustainability goals. Hawai‘i has a strong legacy of innovation through the application of place-based knowledge, such as fishponds and advanced water and agricultural systems. This legacy continues today with clean energy innovation, green technology, research, social enterprise, local products, and ‘āina-based community initiatives that are making Hawai‘i a global model for sustainability. In the face the rapidly changing environmental, economic, and social conditions of the 21st century, Hawai‘i can be an incubator for integrated local solutions and scalable models.
However, starting new ventures, either businesses or products, is challenging, full of risk, and requires support at key stages of development – in particular, between the startup phase and commercialization of a new product – often called the “valley of death”. It is critical that these startup businesses generate monetary support, and sometimes, government and policy support to go to market.
Start-ups are a high-risk investment and can quickly plummet without the proper resources. There are many resources for start-ups for the first year, but after that cycle, it is difficult to maintain and generate additional funding for commercialization.
Survival Rate of Startups After 5 Years and 1 Year

Figure 1 details start-up business ecosystem viability in Hawai‘i.
In 2013, 47.6% of Hawai‘i  startups survived their first five years of business, 3.9 percentage points more than in 1982. (Source: University of Hawai‘i Economic Research Organization’s (UHERO) Innovation Dashboard)

Figure 2 details start-up business ecosystem viability in Hawai‘i.
In 2013, 79.2% of Hawai‘i  startups survived their first year of business, 3.0 percentage points more than in 1982. (Source: UHERO Innovation Dashboard)
Building systems and communities of practice to support entrepreneurship can help to mitigate risk, and create a thriving ecosystem for innovation and local livelihoods. By supporting sustainable infrastructure, funding, and local jobs in innovation and creative careers, Hawai‘i can build a foundation for increased innovation outputs such as goods and services to support Hawai‘i’s culture and economy and the growth of local jobs contributing to higher quality of life, illustrated in Figure 3 below. This view is in alignment with the 80|80 Initiative: High Technology Development Corporation’s (HTDC) goal of 80,000 green technology jobs paying $80,000 or more by 2030.

Figure 3: Components of an innovation economy (source: Innovation Framework Report: Nurturing the Innovation Economy, 2014)
Hawai‘i has a rich innovation economy through its strong foundation in research through the discoveries and innovation activity of the University of Hawai‘i and a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) related educational programs promoting and supporting the growth of a technically skilled workforce.
The Research industry amplifies investment by the creation of new jobs and economic growth and contributes to the education of the workforce. Approximately 200 new companies were established in 2013 in the innovation sectors in Hawai‘i (Innovation Framework Report, 2014). These early stage companies represent an opportunity for rapid economic growth for the state as such companies have been shown to be engines of job creation and high value added economic impact.

Figure 4 illustrates the number of jobs created over time in the United States through startups (source: Hawai‘i Strategic Development Corporation (HSDC) Innovation Assets Report)

Figure 5: Innovation Economy Employment by County. The majority of the jobs in Hawai‘i’s innovation economy are located in Honolulu County (75 percent). Maui County accounts for more than 6,800 jobs (11 percent), Hawai`i County 6,140 jobs (10 percent) and Kaua‘i County 2,662 (four percent). (Source: Hawai‘i  Business Roundtable (HBR) Innovation Assets Report 2014-15)

Innovations Recorded

Patents indicate creation and formalization of intellectual property in the form of innovation. The increase in the number of patents in Hawai‘i can indicate the growth of innovation with a view to more green technology – particularly in science and engineering.
Figure 6: Total number of patents issued to Hawai‘i residents over time (Data Sources: State Government Dashboard and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office)

Science and Engineering Patents

Figure 7: In 2016, about 6 patents were awarded per 1,000 individuals in Science & Engineering occupations in Hawai‘i. (Data Source: UHERO Innovation Dashboard)  
Technology licensing is an agreement where innovators who have created patents allow others to use and adapt their products for market use in exchange for compensation. This creates a mutually beneficial relationship that can fuel further innovation and promote the use of innovative technologies.

Technology Licenses

Figure 8: In 2014, the number of technology licenses and options executed in Hawai‘i. (Data Source: UHERO Innovation Dashboard)

Figure 9: This graph represents the number of U.S Patents, license/option agreements, and invention disclosures issued at University of Hawai‘i, and includes a projected goal for the coming fiscal years. (Data Source: University of Hawai‘i, 2008)

Employment Share

Employment share illustrates the distribution of workers within a firm or industry. The graphs below depict the distribution of workers among Hawai‘i firms according to longevity of the business: startup (less than one year old), young (one to five years old), and mature (six or more years old). 

Employment Share of Start-Up Firms

Figure 10 illustrates the employment share, or proportion of the workforce, in startup firms less than one year old. In 2013, 1.7% of Hawai‘i’s private sector jobs were at startup firms. (Data Source: UHERO Innovation Dashboard)

Employment Share of Young Firms

Figure 11 illustrates the employment share, or proportion of the workforce, in young firms between one and five years old. In 2013, 8.5% of Hawai‘i ’s private sector jobs were at young firms. (Data Source: UHERO Innovation Dashboard)

Employment Share of Mature Firms

Figure 12 illustrates the employment share, or proportion of the workforce, in mature firms six or more years old. In 2013, 89.8% of Hawai‘i ’s private sector jobs were at mature firms. (Data Source: UHERO Innovation Dashboard)

Fiscal Support

Funding is a critical component of startup business viability. The following are a snapshot of funding that has supported innovation and entrepreneurship. There are likely other funding streams that are not captured here.

Figure 13: This figure depicts funding sources Hawaiian businesses from different companies, and total amount contributed (2011-2015) (Data Source: UHERO HI Growth Initiative Report)

Small Business Innovation Research

Figure 14: In 2015, federal funding for small business innovation research was $88.30 per million dollars of Hawai‘i  GDP. (Data Source: UHERO Innovation Dashboard)

Technology Licensing in Dollars

Figure 15: In 2014, $117,628 was generated in university licensing and options revenue in Hawai‘i. (Data Source: UHERO Innovation Dashboard)

Venture Capital Investment

Figure 16: In 2016, $0.28 for each $1000 of Hawai‘i  GDP were distributed as venture capital funds. (Data Source: UHERO Innovation Dashboard)
The Kauffman Index of Growth Entrepreneurship is a composite measure of entrepreneurial business growth in the United States that captures growth entrepreneurship in all industries and measures business growth from both revenue and job perspectives. It includes three component measures of business growth: Rate of Startup Growth, Share of Scale-ups, and High-Growth Company Density (Hawai‘i  Strategic Development Corporation).

Kauffman Index

Figure 17: In 2017, 0.32% of Hawai‘i 's 20-64 year-old adults started a new business. (Data Source: UHERO Innovation Dashboard)

Local Innovation for Global Challenges

The 2018 Hawai‘i Annual Code Challenge (HACC) theme focused on sustainability utilizing the Aloha+ Challenge and Dashboard as a framework to drive action on Hawaiʻi’s statewide social, economic, and environmental priorities. The Aloha+ Challenge and online Dashboard inspired innovation by creating efficiencies and innovations for state agencies, non-profit, and technology partners on Hawai‘i’s sustainability goals – and support action on global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Challenges are demonstrated through the Aloha+ Dashboard across each of the Aloha+ Challenge goals. The winning solutions below as examples of local innovation and skill-building through the lens of sustainability – further elevating Hawai‘i as a global sustainability leader.
Professional Coding Team Winners
1st Place: Team Pika; 2nd Place: Gucci Gang; 3rd Place: Plant Hawai'i
High School Coding Team Winners
1st Place: Mililani High School; 2nd Place: BuffnBlue
2nd Place High School Winner: BuffnBlue
To view all challenge solutions, visit HACC Submission 

Learn More and Make A Difference

Learn More

Kupu's Hawaiʻi Youth Sustainability Challenge (HYSC) in partnership with Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation is an initiative to empower Hawaiʻi youth to create solutions to conservation and sustainability challenges in their schools and communities, framed around the Aloha+ Challenge. Students in public, private, and charter schools from grades 6-12 apply to receive funding, mentorship, and training to support their innovative and grassroots environmental initiatives. These projects will create new and sustainable solutions for their schools and communities. Learn more!
Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards Hawai‘i businesses report on in economic, environmental, and social categories (Global Reporting Initiative (GRI): Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)
Innovation and Investment Organizations (Business Accelerators, Incubators and Co-Working Spaces):
  • High Technology Development Corporation (HTDC) has programs that focus on building the next generation technology, innovation, and manufacturing industries. Programs help companies overcome challenges and create sustainable and globally competitive businesses - Programs: Incubation; NI3; INNOVATE Hawai‘i ; HCATT
  • Oceanit uses a mind-to-market approach that brings disruptive thinking, science and engineering to create new knowledge and technology for humans and society.
  • Sustainability Indices are used by the asset management industry to drive the ESG movement.
  • World Bank Group Enterprise Surveys uses their surveys and the firm-level data from developing countries to help make recommendations to policy makers that support private economic activity.
  • Hawai‘i Innovation Initiative comes from the University of Hawai’i System, working to build a thriving innovation, research, education, and training enterprise in Hawai’i that will develop a 3rd economic sector, create high-quality living-wage jobs, and address challenges and opportunities faced by Hawai’i and the world.
  • Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) Investor Education Program upholds fairness and public confidence in the marketplace, promotes sound consumer practices, and increases knowledge, opportunity, and justice in the community.
  • Hawai‘i  Angels provides a forum for member to review investment presentations and share opinions about these opportunities, and allows for networking and expansions of new opportunities in Hawai’i.
  • HI Growth Initiative seeks to grow the innovation economy and in doing so will provide a clear pathway to generate highly skilled, well-compensated jobs to employ Hawai’i’s STEM-educated graduates.
  • Hawai‘i  Venture Capitalist Association (HVCA) seeks to foster entrepreneurial development through networking, education, and access to venture capital.
  • Maui Economic Development Board’s (MEDB) Ke Alahele Education Fund aims to meet workforce needs in technology fields. The Fund stimulates community investment in broadening career pathways for Maui County residents.
  • UPSIDE Fund I and II is a partnership that invests in people, not themes despite the absence of data or social proof.
  • Mana Up is a Hawai’i-based initiative designed to build the state’s next 100 product companies earning $1 million or more in annual revenue, and to create sustainable wealth livelihoods for Hawai’i locals.
  • BlueStartups focuses on helping technology companies compete on a global scale with entrepreneurial activity in Hawai’i.
  • Box Jelly co-working space
  • Elemental Excelerator supports startup and young firms through funding and mentorship at various stages of development that impact people lives in energy, water, agriculture, and transportation.
  • SKAI Ventures/Cellular Bioengineering Inc. is a Hawai’i-based accelerator of disruptive technologies with biomedical applications.
  • ImpactHUB Honolulu is a space designed to facilitate sustainable impact in Hawai’i and abroad through collaboration and empowering communities.
  • Creative Lab accelerates global export of Hawai’i’s creative content and creative products to strengthen a creative entrepreneurs’ capacity for success.
  • Designer-in-Residence (DIR) Program (website unavailable)
  • Founder Institute (Honolulu) is a startup launch program for talented entrepreneurs.
  • Global Virtual Studio (GVS) Transmedia Accelerator empowers Hawai’i’s creative entrepreneurs to launch original transmedia franchises through development models, mentorship and coaching relationships, seed financing, and synergistic collaboration.
  • Hawai‘i Innovation Center at Hilo (no official website; only an article)
  • Hawai‘i Investment Ready combines Hawaiian Wisdom with modern tools to build resilient social enterprise to accelerate worldwide adoption of sustainable and inclusive technologies, policies, and behaviors.
  • Hawai‘i TechWorks bridges the gap between technical talent in rural Hawai’i and access to quality opportunities.
  • Hawai‘i Business and Entrepreneur Acceleration Mentors (HiBEAM) helps launch and build high growth Hawai’i technology, biotechnology, and life sciences companies by providing expert professional advice and access to funding sources.
  • Mānoa Innovation Center location pin and Upcoming Webinars.  
  • Maui Research & Technology Center – MauiTech Park, a direct result of leader’s intent on economic diversification and job creation.
  • Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship(PACE) harbors experiential entrepreneurship programs at the University of Hawai’i, including innovative curricula, entrepreneur research projects, experiential programs, and community outreach.
  • Sultan Ventures provides business planning services, funding, investments, and proactive educational foundations.
  • XLR8UH aims to encourage entrepreneurship in Hawai’i and buffer the ecosystem that supports it.

SDG 4 - Quality Education
Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning
SDG 5 - Gender Equality
Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
Reduce inequality within and among countries