Underlying the global imperative, Mr. Bendis said, is the “new locational competition for economic activity. It is apparent that geographical boundaries are no longer relevant in a time of global competition. Basically, you’re competing against everybody, everywhere, every day.” The bar to entry is lower for countries around the world, he said, because innovation is replacing technology as the driver of economies. He recalled the Ohio Edison programs of a quarter-century ago which focused on industries, technologies and products. Innovation, he said, is more focused on services, processes, ways of communicating, partnering, and working together—“not just about creating the next best widget. That’s one of the paradigm shifts.” This new paradigm, he added, includes more public investment and risk taking, developing trust through collaboration, ensuring responsiveness to partners’ missions, and building consensus among all constituents.
Because innovation is collaborative by nature, he said, regional clusters are key ingredients of innovation. He proposed five key components to consider when defining desirable regional assets. These are the economic base, which includes the kinds of products and services produced; entrepreneurship, including the capability to create companies wholly new or from existing firms; talent, including workforce skills and the human capital base; innovation and ideas; and the basic conditions of the region, including location, infrastructure, amenities, factor costs, and natural resources. He said that northeast Ohio already has good collaborative “interaction fields,” including regional clusters and university-industry collaborations, which are needed to power the “innovation ecosystem” and move ideas from the proof of concept stage to the proof of relevance stage. The outputs following the proof of relevance stage include the jobs, new products and services, and commercialization activities that signify wealth creation. He stressed that successful innovation of this kind must be a “triple helix” including education, industry, and government, and that the missions of these three sectors are inseparable.
At the same time, said Mr. Bendis, many states have programs like the Third Frontier, including Pennsylvania and Maryland. The best of these, he said, are both providing early-stage support as seed investors and facilitating collaboration throughout the innovation process. “If you’re going to do this,” he said, “you have to learn how to collaborate, and during the history of IBED, those who have collaborated most effectively have prevailed. I think that what you’ve done in northeast Ohio is to build a good architecture for collaboration. With NorTech, Jumpstart, BioEnterprise, and other intermediaries, you are developing a real innovation ecosystem. Just as importantly, these programs know how to attract other people’s money into the region.”
Mr. Bendis closed by praising the IBED intermediary organizations of northeast Ohio, and reiterating his use of northeast Ohio for audiences elsewhere. “I lead with Cleveland and the organizations represented here as examples of what they need to build if they want to be effective,” he said. “And