Silicon Valley Can’t Be Copied says MIT Technology Review

July 8, 2013 by
Filed under: Collaboration, News 

It’s the people and contacts that are vital to building a sustainable technology cluster like Silicon Valley, not artificial stimulation, says an article from Vivek Wadhwa, author of The Immigrant Exodus: Why America Is Losing the Global Race to Capture Entrepreneurial Talent.

The article has implications for the sustainability of London’s Tech City and the focus for supporting high tech clusters: getting people to connect effectively.

In 1990, Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter proposed a new method of creating regional innovation centres around an existing research university. He observed that geographic concentrations of interconnected companies and specialized suppliers gave certain industries productivity and cost advantages. Porter postulated that by bringing these ingredients together into a cluster, regions could artificially ferment innovation (see “In Innovation Quest, Regions Seek Critical Mass“).

Porter and legions of consultants following his methodology prescribed top-down clusters to governments all over the world. The formula was always the same: select a hot industry, build a science park next to a research university, provide subsidies and incentives for chosen industries to locate there, and create a pool of venture capital.

Sadly, the magic never happened—anywhere. Hundreds of regions all over the world collectively spent tens of billions of dollars trying to build their versions of Silicon Valley. I don’t know of a single success says Wadhwa.

What Porter and Frederick Terman of Stanford University, who tried to replicate his success with Silicon Valley elsewhere, failed to recognize is that it wasn’t academia, industry, or even the US government’s funding for military research into aerospace and electronics that had created Silicon Valley: it was the people and the relationships that Terman had so carefully fostered among Stanford faculty and industry leaders.

Silicon Valley Can’t Be Copied – MIT Technology Review.


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