efforts are important, Dr. Good said. Different parts of the country will have different kinds of clusters. “But we’ve got to have them all over,” Dr. Good said. “We can’t just have them in special places.”
The nanotechnology center being developed in Albany, New York, looks like it will succeed, she said, and should be studied more closely. But in many cases, the state and local entities don’t have critical mass and don’t have the sustained policy support to move clusters forward. Term limits for local politicians also make it difficult to achieve continuity for cluster-development efforts from administration to administration. “One of them starts something and it dies in the next round,” she observed. Our observations indicate sustained innovation is a marathon, not a sprint.
Most successful innovation clusters in the United States have drawn heavily on nearby national laboratories and universities. Many state governors today have decided their state universities will have to be part of the engines of innovation. “So for those of us in universities, whether we like it or not, that is something that is going to take a little getting used to,” Dr. Good said. “I don’t think we will be able to get out from under that necessity.”
Many people forget Silicon Valley’s innovation cluster was a product of multiple private industries interacting with major universities, Dr. Good said. “If you were to take out the impact of Stanford and UC-Berkeley, Silicon Valley would not exist. It is almost that simple.” It also is important to remember that, as a private university, Stanford could do what it wanted. “They didn’t have to ask permission,” she said. “So we need to turn the state universities loose a little bit to make this work.”
Two panels in the symposium, Dr. Good noted, will discuss what universities and leading national laboratories are doing to commercialize their research. If one studies the record of national laboratories as a whole so far, “it has not been a big success story,” she said. “So how can we improve that over time?”
Dr. Good also noted that although the United States has had a strong record of developing innovation clusters, “we have had no legislatively authorized program to specifically, comprehensively support clusters. We have become hung up on words. Everybody says that is industrial policy, we don’t do that, and therefore the initiatives die. Let’s call it something else. I don’t care. But let’s get it moving in one way or another.”
There is evidence, however, that things are about to change, Dr. Good said. “I believe the Obama Administration has undertaken a number of important initiatives focused on the development of clusters.”