Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Goldilocks and the Geography of Innovation

A sweet spot in the Technology Readiness Level attracts private industry.

Theme: Economic geography of innovation

Subject Article: "Uber Would Like to Buy Your Robotics Department."

Other Links: 1. "Richard Florida, Roger Martin and David Wolfe on getting innovation right."
2. "Cities of Knowledge: Cold War Science and the Search for the Next Silicon Valley."
3. "From Metal to Minds: Economic Restructuring in the Rust Belt."
4. "Boston Versus Silicon Valley: Advantage Beantown."
5. "Toyota Invests $1 Billion in Artificial Intelligence in U.S."
6. "The Valley of Death."

Postscript: In "Engine or Infrastructure? The University Role in Economic Development" (1999), Richard Florida writes:

It is quite clear that Silicon Valley or the Cambridge/Boston regions are not the only places with excellent universities working in areas of potential commercial importance.  One way to begin to structure the problem is to think of the relationship between the university and the economy as composing a simple two-dimensional system, in which the university transmits a signal, which the regional economic environment must absorb.  Increasing the volume of the signal need not result in effective transmission or absorption if the region's transmitters, so to speak, are not turned on or are functioning ineffectively.  In short,the university appears to be a necessary but insufficient condition for regional technological and economic development.  To borrow a phrase from the work of my CMU colleague, Wesley Cohen and Daniel Levinthal (1990) what appears to matter here--and what is to often neglected in policy circles--is what we might call  "regional absorptive capacity,” the ability of a region to absorb the science, innovation, and technologies which universities generate.  Another way of saying this is that regions need to capture the "spillovers" of the technologies and innovations they generate.

I'll start by saying that there is a lot in Florida's paper that resonates with my own research into the matter. Also, the above quoted passage can adequately explain why tech transfer did not flower in Pittsburgh. I've learned that the flowering of tech transfer is rather beside the point. What happens at the university along the NASA scale from Levels 4-7 is, indeed, driving regional economic development.

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