Global Innovation Week: why creating Silicon-Valley like ecosystems is still an ambition

At the recent World Economic Forum, Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google, said that, “On a net basis, more jobs were created by small companies and therefore entrepreneurs needed more support, otherwise the situation would get worse.” Hence the growing consensus in many economic quarters that entrepreneurial-driven business formation may be the best way to improve the state of the world (see article).

As noted in my article on technology changing economic development, this is indeed the focus of economic development agencies looking to grow their entrepreneur ecosystems within their location, and drive jobs and economic growth. In 2012, we took part as a media partner at the first Global Innovation Summit, and saw the appetite for government agencies and NGOs around the world to make this happen – our team, of Richard Wallace, Nishant Dahad, and myself were immersed during the conference in the debates and workshops and learned of example of various initiatives around the world to nurture their innovation ecosystems including in Africa and India.

At the 2012 summit, Victor Hwang of T2 Venture Capital and responsible for creating the Global Innovation Summit, said, “We see it as the start of a movement that seeks nothing less than the transformation of the way we think about economic development.” As noted then, the world “has squandered untold resources in funding technoparks, incubators, clusters, scientific research, technical training, and venture capital that have not yielded the expected results.”  Today’s process of innovation depends on the vibrancy of entire systems, not just the strength of isolated, individual components.

It’s not just about Khosla’s passionate entrepreneurs, but it is equally crucial to have communities of investors, scientists, engineers, advisers, executives, lawyers, bankers, accountants, landlords, artists and other professionals that support and nurture the full life-cycle of innovation, a complex human network akin to biological ecosystems. Read the original article, A Tale of Two (Silicon) Valleys published in 2012 here.

One of the other key takeaways from the 2012 summit was related to the characteristics of Silicon Valley that made it successful – that in Silicon Valley, social, cultural, ethnical or language barriers were overcome by a prevailing sense of trust within and between communities that allowed exchanges of ideas, and paved the way towards a number of collaborations that may not occur in other places in the world (read GIS 2012 Day 2: Trust is Key to Collaboration).

So energetic was this conference that in follow up discussions, even we encouraged the organizers to create a Global Innovation Week for their next conference, very similar in nature to the Global Entrepreneurship Week that happens in the fall every year (this year during 18-24 November). This is exactly what has happened, and the Global Innovation Summit embraces a series of events, ranging from the summit conference itself, to sideline events like ‘the art of innovation’, ‘the innovative life science incubator experience’, ‘technology transfer models and impact on innovation: an international discussion’, ‘the women in innovation lab’, and ‘creativity and innovation in Brazil’. The event details for the week (17-21 February 2014) are all available on the web site.

Creating and nurturing innovation ecosystems and people who can create companies that create jobs and growth is a major ambition for many governments and development agencies around the world. What started many years ago in some countries as ‘we want to be like Silicon Valley’ has now become an international passion, with several cities around the world having created their own recipe for success (London, Berlin, Tel Aviv, New York, to name but a few). With this global passion for innovation, we are sure to see many more such successful innovation ecosystems or ‘Silicon Valley’- like places around the world in months and years to come.

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