work for someone else, typically a medium-sized or large company, in the assumption that entrepreneurship was not an option.
Encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation will require a change of culture within organizations so that they offer not only encouragement and rewards but also bear a greater tolerance for failure. Describing the experience of the Cleveland Clinic in encouraging doctors to commercialize new medical products, Dr. Cosgrove conceded that “It’s been a long trip of trial and error.” Emphasizing the importance of long-term commitment, he added “It is essential to encourage physicians to bring their ideas and their inventions forward, but it is just as important to stay with them all the way through to commercialization.” In his discussion remarks, Dr. Albert Green of Kent Displays agreed that the “challenge for us is to realize it’s not just the innovation part, which we do really well, but to translate that innovation into manufacturing and the expertise that goes out into the marketplace.”
David Morgenthaler, a long-time Cleveland venture capitalist, said that he, too, saw the urgent need to encourage more entrepreneurial and manufacturing activity in Ohio—and in the rest of the United States. He had helped organize the conference, he said, in part to ensure that the innovation initiatives of the region would not only be noticed, but also strengthened and emulated. “I am working hard for Ohio,” he said, “because I don’t want to see what happened to Ohio happen to the country.”
A Call for Commitment
The conference provided a unique opportunity to document the variety of initiatives underway by industry, universities, federal, state, and local governments to renew Ohio’s economy. Many speakers cautioned, however, that this change would not happen overnight. Dan Berglund noted that raising state income levels requires a long-term commitment and effort by all involved. Research Triangle Park has made significant contributions to North Carolina’s economy, he said, but it took thirty years of sustained commitment to accomplish this goal.14 Reflecting on his own firm’s experience with renewal, James Griffith noted that Timken’s transformation “came after 10 years of hard work, including a strong focus on innovating and the need to rip out the infrastructure and habits that inhibited innovation within a 100-year-old company.” The key lesson from the northeast Ohio experience, he said, is to restructure existing assets to take advantage of regional strengths and new opportunities, to reinvest in the skills and technologies of the future, to create the right incentives for innovation and entrepreneurship, and to stay the course.
14For a history of Research Triangle Park, See Albert N. Link, A Generosity of Spirit: The Early History of the Research Triangle Park, Research Triangle Park: Research Triangle Foundation of North Carolina, 1995. See also Albert N. Link, From Seed to Harvest: The Growth of the Research Triangle Park. Research Triangle Park: Research Triangle Foundation of North Carolina, 2002.