the federal agencies charged with reaching out to the regions, and ensuring that the regions have the incentives, support, and knowledge they need. Primary mechanisms for this outreach are innovation clusters where universities, businesses, research institutes, foundations, political organizations, and others intersect as partners to work toward common development goals. This is a significant departure from earlier economic development policies that often promoted a “race to the bottom” in which cities, counties, and states undercut each other to attract short-term growth.
The Task Force on Advancing Regional Innovation Clusters (TARIC) is a collaboration of federal agencies that seek to advance the growth of regional innovation clusters in the United States. While innovation clusters have existed for decades, beginning with the North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park in the 1950s, only recently does the federal government have a strategy to promote and align investments that support these clusters.
PROGRAMS TO JUMP-START GROWTH
In addition, in May 2011, the Economic Development Administration of the Department of Commerce (EDA) launched an initiative called the Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge to jump-start innovation-fueled growth. The Jobs Accelerator is a joint effort of 16 federal agencies designed to promote growth through public-private partnerships in at least 20 pilot regions that demonstrate high-growth potential. Each of these accelerator challenge investments will serve as a catalyst to leverage private capital in the regions from foundations, corporations, financial institutions, and other private partners. This competition builds on the success of an earlier pilot project, the Energy Regional Innovation Cluster (ERIC), launched in 2010. That initiative provides about $130 million from seven federal agencies to create a regional research center, develop new building efficiency technologies, and cluster the work of local partners to implement these technologies in local businesses and buildings. Today, ERIC, which was won by the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster consortium, is investing resources to commercialize research, launch new small businesses, and connect education and work force training strategies.
These efforts are coupled with high-risk, high-reward policy tools, such as the i6 Challenges proof-of-concept competition that is designed to help move innovative ideas from the lab to the market place. The EDA is also promoting a Regional Innovation Acceleration Network to connect venture development organizations within America’s regions to promote best practices.
Mr. Fernandez lauded President Obama for his “understanding the power of innovation and its importance to the future of our national competitiveness.” At the heart of competitiveness, he said, was the simple truth that “when you expand opportunity to more people, it creates more opportunity for everyone.” That work “is not yet done,” he said; substantial parts of the United States have not participated in the high-growth innovation economy. There are many cities and towns that were one thriving but are now suffering.