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Innovation Clusters

In regions around the country, clusters of universities and high-tech companies partner with local and regional governments to boost tech-based economic growth and create good jobs. The two best examples are Silicon Valley, the hotbed of computer technology in northern California, and the metropolitan Boston area connected by Route 128, which is a nexus of biotechnology research and development. For a primer on innovation clusters, see our “Regional Centers of Innovation 101.

The federal government provides large sums of funding for basic scientific research, and boasts a variety of different programs to help companies and state and local governments prepare executives and workers for employment at young, innovative companies seeking to commercialize this research. But the federal government lacks a comprehensive approach for innovation policy. What’s needed is today is a clear-eyed blueprint for developing more innovative clusters around the country that links together federal programs, academic institutions, companies, and local and regional policymakers. In this series, Science Progress will feature bold ideas from innovation experts across the nation for how the Obama administration can develop an effective innovation policy that creates jobs, enables economic mobility, enhances science, and grows the county’s competitiveness.

Articles in the Innovation Clusters Series

Silos of Small Beer
A Case Study of the Efficacy of Federal Innovation Programs in a Key Midwest Regional Economy
By Maryann Feldman and Lauren Lanahan
Maryann Feldman and Lauren Lanahan’s look at the efficacy of regional innovation programs in the eastern Midwest regional economy.

Innovation Policy in Tough Times on Tight Budgets
The Case for Regional Innovation Clusters
By Jonathan Sallet
Jonathan Sallet explains the need to move place-based technology innovation policy forward, especially in difficult economic times.

Energy for Regional Innovation
DOE Programs Can Drive New Technology and Get the Most from Taxpayer Investments
By Andrew Plemmons Pratt
Policies can ensure that we optimize federal support for R&D by taking what researchers know about moving ideas from the lab to the market and linking universities, businesses, and the government to grow regional economies.

The Geography of Innovation
The Federal Government and the Growth of Regional Innovation Clusters
By Jonathan Sallet, Ed Paisley, and Justin R. Masterman
The federal government can assume a vital role in which it frames critical national challenges, facilitates the flow of information and expertise to and between regions, and helps finance, in a competitive and leveraged fashion, valuable activities that innovation clusters would otherwise be unable to undertake.

Bringing New Ideas to Market
Knowledge Transfer, Open Innovation, and the Role of Federal Agencies and Universities in U.S. Economic Competitiveness
By James J. Zuiches
The Obama administration’s push for innovation to boost economic competitiveness requires better strategic links between federal agencies and universities.

Is There a Future for Science Parks?
Alternative Scenarios for 2030 Should Inform Policymaking
By Anthony Townsend
Revolutions in economics, ecology and knowledge systems will alter the business model of today’s science parks. Here’s how it all might play out.

Capital Markets Matter
Helping High-tech Startups Prosper Requires Financial Reform
By Joseph W. Bartlett
Two financial crises—the dotcom meltdown and the current credit crisis—continue to inhibit the financing of young, innovative companies, requiring critical regulatory reform.

Beyond the Box
Innovation Policy in an Innovation-driven Economy
By Brian Kahin
We need to take a closer look at the institutions that enable innovation, not only to see how they can be better coordinated but also how they can respond to the evolving forms and practice of innovation.

Arizona’s Entrepreneurial Song
Arizona State University Leverages Networks to Boost U.S. Southwest Regional Center of Innovation
By Julia Rosen, Keith Aspinall, and Augustine V. Cheng
ASU over the past six years has engaged in a significant institutional transformation. One of the results is the SkySong Innovation Center, a nucleus for a community of entrepreneurs dedicated to innovation and learning.

Manufacturing Innovation
Commerce Department Program Grows with the Times
By Justin R. Masterman
The Manufacturing Extension Partnership program’s evolving strategies to spur competitiveness and innovation among small- and medium-sized businesses adjusts to new challenges.

Time for a More Open Approach?
Monetizing University IP May Require More Flexibility
By Joseph Cortright
“Open innovation” challenges the assumptions made by university technology transfer offices about maximizing the value of their intellectual property.

Flanders: An Example of Best Practices
The United States Could Learn from the Belgian State’s Experiences
By Elmer Yglesias
The Flemish government’s 20 years of cluster building offers U.S. policymakers some key lessons on how to guide technology innovation

Creating a National Innovation Framework
Building a Public-Private Support System to Encourage Innovation
By Richard Bendis
Amid a global economic downturn during which other nations are boosting their already significant public- and private-sector efforts to build more competitive, innovation-led economies, the United States stands almost alone in the world without a national innovation framework.

Accelerating Innovation
Enhancing the Economic Impact of Scientific Discovery
By Mark P. Rice
Creating a vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem is key to fostering broad-based economic growth and competitiveness. Astute policymaking is necessary.

Place Matters (.pdf)
Innovation Springs from Many Seeds, But Soil Is Equally Important
By Maryann Feldman
Sometimes there is no substitute for just being there-being where exciting work is taking place, where high-content unstructured conversations take place, and where the unexpected may be explored and spark something new.

The Federal Role in Catalyzing Innovation (.pdf)
Beyond the Beltway and Through the Networked Economy
By Richard Seline and Steven Miller
As the new Obama administration develops its innovation, economic development, and workforce policies, it should look to build and sustain regional and networked efforts, rather than only crafting broad national policies.

Pittsburgh’s Targeted Incubator (.pdf)
Taking Innovation to the Next Level
By James F. Jordan and Paul L. Kornblith
The Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse was formed in 2000 as a focused incubator to provide capital investments and customized company formation. A focused incubator provides deep knowledge of global industry trends, national networks, and corporate collaborations to identify investment opportunities.

Creating a National Innovation Foundation (.pdf)
Economic Prosperity Rests on Diverse Technology
By Robert Atkinson and Howard Wial
The new administration should create a National Innovation Foundation-a new, federally funded organization whose sole responsibility would be to promote innovation.

Benchmarking Foreign Innovation (.pdf)
The United States Needs to Learn from Other Industrialized Democracies
By Stephen Ezell
While many nations have taken the innovation challenge to heart and put in place a host of policies to spur innovation, the United States has done little, consequently falling behind in innovation policies and risking falling behind in innovation performance as well.

British Innovation Policy (.pdf)
Lessons for the United States
By Will Straw
After a decade of overtly focusing on innovation economics, Britain appears to be moving ahead of the United States with regard to the innovation of innovation policy.