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National Research Council (US) Committee on Competing in the 21st Century: Best Practice in State and Regional Innovation Initiatives. Clustering for 21st Century Prosperity: Summary of a Symposium. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2012.

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Clustering for 21st Century Prosperity: Summary of a Symposium.

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Responding to the challenges of fostering regional growth and employment in an increasingly competitive global economy, many U.S. states and regions have developed programs to attract and grow companies as well as attract the talent and resources necessary to develop regional innovation clusters. These state and regionally based initiatives have a broad range of goals and increasingly include larger resource commitments, often with a sectoral focus and often in partnership with foundations and universities. Recent studies, however, have pointed out that many of these efforts lack the scale and the steady commitment needed for success.1 This has prompted new initiatives to coordinate and concentrate investments from a variety of federal agencies to develop research parks, business incubators, and other strategies to encourage entrepreneurship and high-tech development in the nation's regions. Understanding the nature of innovation clusters and public policies associated with successful cluster development is therefore of current relevance.


An ad hoc committee, under the auspices of the Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy (STEP), is conducting a study of selected state and regional programs in order to identify best practices with regard to their goals, structures, instruments, modes of operation, synergies across private and public programs, funding mechanisms and levels, and evaluation efforts. The committee is reviewing selected state and regional efforts to capitalize on federal and state investments in areas of critical national needs. This review includes both efforts to strengthen existing industries as well as specific technology focus areas such as nanotechnology, stem cells, and advanced energy in order to better understand program goals, challenges, and accomplishments.

As a part of this review, the committee is convening a series of public workshops and symposia involving responsible local, state, and federal officials and other stakeholders. These meetings and symposia will enable an exchange of views, information, experience, and analysis to identify best practice in the range of programs and incentives adopted.

Drawing from discussions at these symposia, fact-finding meetings, and commissioned analyses of existing state and regional programs and technology focus areas, the committee will subsequently produce a final report with findings and recommendations focused on lessons, issues, and opportunities for complementary U.S. policies created by these state and regional initiatives.


Since 1991, the National Research Council, under the auspices of the Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy, has undertaken a program of activities to improve policymakers' understandings of the interconnections of science, technology, and economic policy and their importance for the American economy and its international competitive position. The Board's activities have corresponded with increased policy recognition of the importance of knowledge and technology to economic growth.

One important element of STEP's analysis concerns the growth and impact of foreign technology programs.2 U.S. competitors have launched substantial programs to support new technologies, small firm development, and consortia among large and small firms to strengthen national and regional positions in strategic sectors. Some governments overseas have chosen to provide public support to innovation to overcome the market imperfections apparent in their national innovation systems.3 They believe that the rising costs and risks associated with new potentially high-payoff technologies, and the growing global dispersal of technical expertise, underscore the need for national R&D programs to support new and existing high-technology firms within their borders.

Similarly, many state and local governments and regional entities in the United States are undertaking a variety of initiatives to enhance local economic development and employment through investment programs designed to attract knowledge-based industries and grow innovation clusters.4 These state and regional programs and associated policy measures are of great interest for their potential contributions to growth and U.S. competitiveness and for the “best practice” lessons they offer for other state and regional programs.

STEP's project on State and Regional Innovation Initiatives is intended to generate a better understanding of the challenges associated with the transition of research into products, the practices associated with successful state and regional programs, and their interaction with federal programs and private initiatives. The study seeks to achieve this goal through a series of complementary assessments of state, regional, and federal initiatives; analyses of specific industries and technologies from the perspective of crafting supportive public policy at all three levels; and outreach to multiple stakeholders. The overall goal is to improve the operation of state and regional programs and, collectively, enhance their impact.


As the report of the STEP Board's second workshop on innovation clusters, this volume deepens the committee's review of policies to support innovation clusters. The first symposium explored, more generally, the role of clusters in promoting economic growth, drawing particular attention to the strategies of American states to promote cluster development.5 In complement, the second symposium focused more on the Obama Administration's efforts to develop an integrated cluster initiative and on the role of research parks in promoting innovation and regional and national economic development. The second workshop also reviewed selected best practices in regional and cluster development from other countries.

This volume includes an introduction that provides an overview of the key issues raised at the second workshop as well as detailed summaries of each of the meeting's presentations. This workshop summary has been prepared by the workshop rapporteur as a factual summary of what occurred at the workshop. The planning committee's role was limited to planning and convening the workshop. The statements made are those of the rapporteur or individual workshop participants and do not necessarily represent the views of all workshop participants, the planning committee, or the National Academies.


On behalf of the National Academies, we express our appreciation and recognition for the insights, experiences, and perspectives made available by the participants of this meeting. We are indebted to Pete Engardio for preparing the draft introduction and summarizing the proceedings of the meeting. We are also indebted to Sujai Shivakumar and David Dierksheide of the STEP staff for preparing the report manuscript for publication.


This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Academies' Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for quality and objectivity. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the process.

We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Rebecca Bagley, NorTech; Daniel Berglund, SSTI; Robert Geolas, Clemson University; Randall Jackson, West Virginia University; and Andrew Reamer, Brookings Institution.

Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the content of the report, nor did they see the final draft before its release. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the rapporteur and the institution.

Charles W. Wessner

Mary L. Good



See, for example, Karen G. Mills, Elisabeth B. Reynolds, and Andrew Reamer, “Clusters and Competitiveness: A New Federal Role for Stimulating Regional Economies,” Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, April 2008. See also Jonathan Sallet, Ed Paisley, and Justin R. Masterman, “The Geography of Innovation,” Center for American Progress, September 2, 2009. Also see Mark Muro and Bruce Katz, The New ‘Cluster Moment’: How Regional Innovation Clusters Can Foster the Next Economy, Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, September 2010.


National Research Council, Innovation Policies for the 21st Century: Report of a Symposium, Charles W. Wessner, ed., Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2007.


For example, a number of countries are investing significant funds in the development of research parks. For a review of selected national efforts, see National Research Council, Understanding Research, Science and Technology Parks: Global Best Practices, Charles W. Wessner, ed., Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2009.


For a scoreboard of state efforts, see Robert Atkinson and Scott Andes, The 2010 State New Economy Index: Benchmarking Economic Transformation in the States, Kauffman Foundation and ITIF, November 2010.


For a summary of the first STEP workshop on innovation clusters, see National Research Council, Growing Innovation Clusters for American Prosperity: Summary of a Symposium, Charles W. Wessner, Rapporteur, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2011.

Copyright © 2012, National Academy of Sciences.
Bookshelf ID: NBK115043


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