Regional Knowledge Ecosystems
In the article “Regional Knowledge Ecosystems: Laying the Groundwork for Future Technology-Based Economic Development”, published in the newsletter of the International Economic Development Council, Dr. Anthony Townsend, Research Director of the Institute for the Future, writes about the growth of regional approaches to technology-based economic development.
According to Dr. Townsend, we are just beginning to see the outlines of this approach, which involves many partners – research parks, large research-driven companies, startups, universities, investors and professionals – working together to develop regional knowledge ecosystems. These networks consist of a number of elements, some formal and other informal:
- Research partnerships between universities and companies
- Social networks of entrepreneurs, professionals and amateurs
- Investor cliques and clubs
- Virtual networks and their members both inside and outside the region
“Regional knowledge ecosystems are different from clusters because they aren’t limited to a single industry, and companies aren’t necessarily the most important pieces”, says Dr. Townsend. “In a sense, for regional knowledge ecosystems, firms are the way that the network expresses its ideas about what technologies ought to be commercially developed. For instance, when enough people in Silicon Valley begin experimenting with a new technology, inevitably a whole array of firms launch to develop it further. The firms emerge from the ecosystem, not the other way around.”
Dr. Townsend states that the strength of regional knowledge ecosystems is that they can adapt faster than national systems, which are dictated by federal politics, and they can scale up successful enterprises much more effectively than individual research parks or municipalities.
According to Dr. Townsend, the challenge of building regional knowledge ecosystems is enormous, and will not be accomplished without significant, sustained and coordinated investment and effort by every level of government over the next decade. But individual agencies and organizations can lay the foundations for future growth by taking these steps:
- Get foresight
- Recognize dilemmas
- Map your networks
- Sell community, not place
- Build for flexibility
Regional Knowledge Ecosystems: Laying the Groundwork for Future Technology-Based Economic Development (Newsletter of the International Economic Development Council, pages 1-3)