Welcome to The Startup Line, my new blog on entrepreneurship and innovation in Maine.

It’s an exciting time to be a journalist covering entrepreneurship in Maine. Here’s why: Approximately 80 percent of Maine’s economic growth comes from innovation, according to the Maine Development Foundation’s 2014 Measures of Growth report. It’s what ignites Maine’s economy and I want you to rely on me for that news via The Startup Line.

Unlike the time-tested business beats of real estate, banking, trade and logistics and energy, there has never been (as far as I know) a beat focused on innovation in Maine and its entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Don’t get me wrong. Maine has always had its innovators, who have appeared in the newspaper whenever there was a good news hook to hang a story on, but they’ve never been the subject of a specific beat. In my mind, that constitutes a major void in coverage, which I plan to fill with this blog.

When I pitched this blog idea, the first question I got was “Will there be enough to write about?” Yes, there is. So much. Whether it’s a quick update on a Maine startup reaching a milestone (I have a good one to report early next week), or a bit of national news I think has relevance to Maine’s innovators.

I’ve been covering Maine business for nearly decade, but to make sure I wasn’t overstating the lack of an entrepreneurship beat before my time I called up John Porter, who started as a business reporter at the Portland Press Herald in 1990.

He can’t remember a beat ever focused on entrepreneurship and innovation.

“I think that mirrors the fact there really wasn’t an emphasis from a policy point of view,” said Porter, now CEO of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce. “The closest thing I can think of in my career is when I was on the business desk from 1990 to 1997 and I had the Maine economy as a beat and I wrote a lot about R&D back then.”

During the early ’90s, the conversation was focused on Maine’s near-last place finish among states when it came to research and development. Those early conversations, which ultimately led to the creation of the Maine Technology Institute, the Maine Venture Fund and the state’s Office of Innovation, led to where the state is today, Porter said.

“But as far as entrepreneurship and innovation as we know it now, I certainly think those are — I won’t say emerging topics — but within Maine they’re topics that heretofore have not got the attention they should,” Porter said. “Because as we look ahead to our future in the state we need to stop chasing our past and bringing back manufacturing as we knew it and focus on our future and really looking at new ways to bring added value and dollars from elsewhere into our economy, and that really is all about encouraging the entrepreneurship and innovation movement and looking at other examples around the country where they’ve developed a strong entrepreneurship culture.”

Policy discussions in Maine and elsewhere are now turning to how communities should foster innovation. That’s evident in the Maine Policy Review’s new issue, which is focused exclusively on innovation. While there exists in popular culture a poetic image of an individual toiling away alone, innovation is not a product of isolation, as Linda Silka, director of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center and a professor in the University of Maine School of Economics, writes in the issue’s introductory essay.

In it, Silka quotes a study in Scientific American that I’ll also quote here:

“Many of us think of invention as something that springs from an individual mind. It’s a romantic view, but it bears little relation to the creative process behind the technologies that are shaping our world. That process is increasingly collaborative — not so much a single light bulb going off in someone’s head as many lightbulbs in a social network of diverse minds.”

The lesson? Fostering innovation is more about community than the individual, and making sure the elements are in place to facilitate the connections and collaboration among people. That is important in Maine, where its rural character makes it more challenging to to bring people together and cross pollinate their ideas.

I hope this blog can help foster that community by providing news and insight about the state’s innovators and entrepreneurs. I hope you’ll join me.

And, if you were wondering, Maine has improved its R&D ranking since the 1990s, but not by much. Maine’s total R&D investment was $535 million in 2011, or approximately 1 percent of the state’s total GDP, ranking 41st in the nation, according to the Maine Development Foundation’s 2014 Measures of Growth report.