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Clusters on the Brain

Want to create local innovation clusters?

While there is still much debate about cities’ ability to create clusters, Vivek Wadhwa of Duke University’ s Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization says the answer is to invest in people not real estate.

In this recent op-ed in The Chronicle of Higher Education, he shares his short list on boosting entrepreneurship and innovation:

  • Remove the cultural stigma associated with failure.
  • Teach entrepreneurship to everyone – students and experienced workers.
  • Import skilled immigrants.
  • Create connections among people locally and globally.
  • Improve the local education system.
  • Reward university researchers for creating start-ups and jobs instead of for publishing papers and giving talks.
  • Invest in networks.
  • Link university researchers to entrepreneurs and generate opportunities to exchange ideas.

A recent analysis of Portland’s athletic and outdoor cluster released by Portland Development Commission may also shed light on clusters.

Joe Cortright, a collaborator on the study says:

“The athletic and outdoor cluster is remarkable for many reasons. The jobs in Portland are at the apex of a global industry. Firms in the industry depend heavily on the local talent base, which is producing entrepreneurs and spinoff firms, and also attracting businesses to locate or relocate here. And the industry's innovative edge draws heavily from its close connections to the region's outdoor culture. Athletic and outdoor firms learn from and extend the region's "hybrid lifestyle"--blending work and play, and turn this knowledge into new designs and products. And the athletic and outdoor industry is a critical component of the region's creative industries.”

If you're interested in fostering clusters, it seems all signs point to investing in entrepreneurial talent, recognizing and leveraging distinctiveness and creating connections.

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