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The search for the next Silicon Valley

Posted: 10 Jun 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:technology innovation  high-tech  intellectual property 

The next Silicon Valley? You're kidding, right? Google the phrase, and you'll find an archive of old articles with titles like "India likely to be the next Silicon Valley," "Could the next Silicon Valley be in a developing country?" "Is Vietnam the next Silicon Valley?" Or my favourite: "Could Silicon Valley be the next Detroit?"

Long the preeminent high-tech centre in North America and the world, Silicon Valley saw unrivaled success that has proved very tough to clone or import. The Valley has done a great job over the years of attracting and retaining global talent and local capital, and of building world-class tech companies around brilliant ideas.

But as last week's General Motors bankruptcy shows, the U.S. industrial base is undergoing wrenching change. And on the technology front, R&D in everything from electronics to solar tech is increasingly being done outside of Silicon Valley. Technology innovation itself has become globalised.

As history has shown, tough economic times don't halt the evolution of technologies and their applications. On the contrary, tech innovation can drive economic recovery and strengthen competitiveness. Consequently, such innovation has become a national imperative in many nations around the world.

Last week, the International Association of Science Parks (IASP) held its annual conference. The event, hosted in Raleigh, N.C., by Research Triangle Park, drew more than 700 delegates from more than 40 countries, representing all quarters of the global innovation economy. As one delegate from the Berlin Adlershof tech cluster put it, "The hard-core tech sector is doing very well."

Like Silicon Valley, regional tech centres from Brazil to Bangalore are finding that technology development thrives in an environment of creative intellectual energy that offers a networked economy, proximity to research institutions and universities, unique intellectual property development, a diverse base of high-tech talent, access to investment capital and infrastructure. As IASP delegates would attest, these attributes are now characteristic of many metropolitan regions around the world.

Global connections
Innovation hubs and science parks are no longer limited to a few select locations. In today's economy, innovative businesses and regions are appearing and flourishing by making global connections, tapping into virtual opportunities, breaking down local jurisdictions and building regional innovation engines—what IASP keynoters termed "future knowledge ecosystems."

By some estimates, in as little as 10 years virtually all jobs will have a technology component. Highly skilled workers can choose where they want to live, work and play. An epic battle is on among regions globally to attract and retain them.

Ironically, as the worst economic downturn in modern times unfolds, thousands of talented professionals, engineers, scientists and students from around the world are leaving Silicon Valley, or are having difficulty staying in or entering the United States.

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