Accelerating Innovation Ecosystems: The Promise and Challenges of Regional Innovation Engines
Motivated by the establishment of major U.S. Federal programs seeking to harness the potential of regional innovation ecosystems, we assess the promise and challenges of place-based innovation policy interventions. Relative to traditional research grants, place-based innovation policy interventions are not directed toward a specific research project but rather aim to reshape interactions among researchers and other stakeholders within a given geographic location. The most recent such policy - the NSF “Engines” program - is designed to enhance the productivity and impact of the investments made within a given regional innovation ecosystem. The impact of such an intervention depends on whether, in its implementation, it induces change in the behavior of individuals and the ways in which knowledge is distributed and translated within that ecosystem. While this logic is straightforward, from it follows an important insight: innovation ecosystem interventions – Engines -- are more likely to succeed when they account for the current state of a given regional ecosystem (latent capacities, current bottlenecks, and economic and institutional constraints) and when they involve extended commitments by multiple stakeholders within that ecosystem. We synthesize the logic, key dependencies, and opportunities for real-time assessment and course correction for these place-based innovation policy interventions.
Forthcoming: Accelerating Innovation Ecosystems: The Promise and Challenges of Regional Innovation Engines, Jorge Guzman, Fiona Murray, Scott Stern, Heidi Williams. in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Policy and the Economy, volume 3, Jones and Lerner. 2023