Dr. Good welcomed the participants on behalf of the STEP Board and explained that the whole issue of state and regional initiatives has been of ongoing interest of the board. “We have done a lot of work looking at innovation centers around the world, and now we are looking at our own,” she said. “It really has been an extraordinary experience.”
This particular initiative also has been very rewarding because the partners have been able to move much faster than the normal pace, Dr. Good said. “That has been an advantage in my view because we need to move innovation policy quickly.”
The successes of U.S. clusters such as Silicon Valley, Boston’s Route 128, and Research Triangle Park in creating industries and economic development have generated global interest in clusters, Dr. Good noted. Now other governments are promoting synergies between business, government, and research organizations in their regions. Dr. Good said she finds it both interesting and problematic that the rest of the world “is replicating our successes better than we are.”
There are national cluster-development programs under way in Japan, South Korea, and all of the nations of the European Union. Also, emerging economies such as Brazil are quickening their pace of building clusters. Dr. Good noted that China has a least 54 research parks, many of a very large scale.2
In the United States, a number of state and local governments have sought to stimulate economic development through regional clusters. The symposium, therefore, will discuss what some of the states are doing. Such state and local
2 See the presentation by Zhu Shen of BioForesight in National Research Council, Understanding Research, Science and Technology Parks: Global Best Practices, op. cit.
efforts are important, Dr. Good said. Different parts of the country will have different kinds of clusters. “But we’ve got to have them all over,” Dr. Good said. “We can’t just have them in special places.”
The nanotechnology center being developed in Albany, New York, looks like it will succeed, she said, and should be studied more closely. But in many cases, the state and local entities don’t have critical mass and don’t have the sustained policy support to move clusters forward. Term limits for local politicians also make it difficult to achieve continuity for cluster-development efforts from administration to administration. “One of them starts something and it dies in the next round,” she observed. Our observations indicate sustained innovation is a marathon, not a sprint.
Most successful innovation clusters in the United States have drawn heavily on nearby national laboratories and universities. Many state governors today have decided their state universities will have to be part of the engines of innovation. “So for those of us in universities, whether we like it or not, that is something that is going to take a little getting used to,” Dr. Good said. “I don’t think we will be able to get out from under that necessity.”
Many people forget Silicon Valley’s innovation cluster was a product of multiple private industries interacting with major universities, Dr. Good said. “If you were to take out the impact of Stanford and UC-Berkeley, Silicon Valley would not exist. It is almost that simple.” It also is important to remember that, as a private university, Stanford could do what it wanted. “They didn’t have to ask permission,” she said. “So we need to turn the state universities loose a little bit to make this work.”
Two panels in the symposium, Dr. Good noted, will discuss what universities and leading national laboratories are doing to commercialize their research. If one studies the record of national laboratories as a whole so far, “it has not been a big success story,” she said. “So how can we improve that over time?”
Dr. Good also noted that although the United States has had a strong record of developing innovation clusters, “we have had no legislatively authorized program to specifically, comprehensively support clusters. We have become hung up on words. Everybody says that is industrial policy, we don’t do that, and therefore the initiatives die. Let’s call it something else. I don’t care. But let’s get it moving in one way or another.”
There is evidence, however, that things are about to change, Dr. Good said. “I believe the Obama Administration has undertaken a number of important initiatives focused on the development of clusters.”