ORLANDO, Fla., Sept. 26 (UPI) -- A global group that certifies innovative organizations is meeting in Florida this week -- the first time its members have gathered in the United States.
An annual world congress of the International Association of Innovation Professionals' four days of meetings are being hosted by the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, about 50 miles south of Kennedy Space Center.
Previous meetings were held in major cities such as Paris, Tokyo and Stockholm.
Local officials said the event would raise global awareness of innovation in central Florida, which includes space firms Blue Origin and SpaceX, and entertainment firms such as the Walt Disney Co. The event also is spurring more involvement from U.S. professionals, organizers said.
Winning the bid to host the event is a personal triumph for Florida Institute of Technology professor Abram Walton, a U.S. delegate to the association.
"This validates us as a world leader in innovation," Walton said. "I heard a lot of great feedback. People are saying, 'Wow, we didn't know about everything that's here on the Space Coast.'"
Lynda Weatherman, president and CEO of the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast, also praised the impact of the event.
"For them to come here is a sign of the rebirth and rise of the Space Coast," Weatherman said. "People are starting to recognize what's here. Many of these global innovators are probably here for the first time."
The Space Coast was devastated by the end of NASA's space shuttle program in 2011, which occurred during fallout from the Great Recession of 2008. But new space companies have moved in, including launch facilities for SpaceX, a rocket factory for Blue Origin and a manufacturing plant for OneWeb Satellites.
The association is a global, non-profit founded in 2013 to professionalize the role of innovation in the corporate setting. It has 3,000 members in more than 100 countries and represents the only formal certification for innovation in the world.
During the annual congress, about 50 delegates from around the world are meeting at the Hilton Melbourne Rialto Place hotel to write new rules and guidelines for certification in such fields as sustainable design, intellectual property and energy. Delegates also toured Kennedy Space Center among other local facilities.
The association is the only group in the United States to offer such innovation certification that is recognized by the non-profit International Organization for Standardization, based in Geneva.
The organization grew out of a need to hire professionals who could keep up with and exceed the quickening pace and impact of technological advances in the Information Age. The group also helps to deliver innovation tools and to solve organizational problems surrounding innovation.
Abram was involved in founding the group.
"Lack of participation has made it more difficult for U.S. leaders to play a role in establishing global standards for intellectual property management, idea management and energy management," Abram said. "I believe that is changing now."
The Space Coast also was recognized for innovation in April when AOL founder Steve Case and his investment company, Revolution, brought their "Rise of the Rest" bus tour to the space center and to Melbourne. The tour highlighted local startups.