Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

ACCELERATING SAN DIEGO'S INNOVATION ECONOMY: Cluster Development, Craft, and the Role of CONNECT, by Steven Hoey

Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

ACCELERATING SAN DIEGO'S INNOVATION ECONOMY: Cluster Development, Craft, and the Role of CONNECT, by Steven Hoey

Article excerpt


The role of industry clusters in economic development of the flourishing and dynamic economy of greater San Diego, California. The role of CONNECT in fostering collaboration and growth within biomedical, communications/IT and wireless, and cleantech industries. CONNECT's involvement in the relatively recent industry of sports innovation. New initiatives to interest greater numbers of young people in scientific careers to address the need for engineers in our society.

In a 2008 article published by the Brookings Institution, authors Karen Mills, Elizabeth Reynolds and Andrew Reamer argued that America's former economic dominance has eroded across an array of industries and business functions over the past several decades. That dominance flowed from the nation's extraordinary aptitude for innovation as well as a relative lack of international competition in the decades following World War II. Other nations could not match the economic prowess of the U.S. due to some combination of insufficient financial, human, and physical capital and economic and social systems that did not value creativity and entrepreneurship.

Mills et al. observed that America's capability for generating and sustaining stable, sufficiently well-paying jobs for a large number of U.S. workers is increasingly at risk. Across numerous industries, enterprises struggle to develop and adopt the technological innovations (in products and production processes) and institutional innovations (new ways of organizing firms and their relationships with customers, suppliers, and collaborators) that sustain economic activity and high-skill, high value-added jobs in a technology-driven innovation economy. Regional industry clusters and organizations that foster and support these clusters provide a valuable mechanism for boosting both national and regional competitiveness and high value-added jobs. Harvard University professor Michael Porter defines industry clusters as geographic concentrations of competing and cooperating companies, suppliers, service providers and associated institutions in a particular field. Clusters promote knowledge sharing ("spillovers") and innovations in products and in technical and business processes by providing thick networks of formal and informal relationships across organizations - in other words a "craft network". As a result, companies and individual workers derive substantial benefits from participation in a cluster's "social structure of innovation."

In his article Recovering Craft: Holistic Work and Empowerment, Bill Charland notes that one characteristic in craft guilds in the industrial age was that workers' skills tended to agglomerate, clustering around a task.

In the post-industrial formation of technology industry clusters, arguably, the tasks are technologies that can be commercialized to serve market needs. Industry clusters enhance firm access to specialized labor, materials, and equipment and enable lower operating costs. In their Brookings Institution white paper on clusters and competitiveness, Karen Mills and her colleagues argue that highly concentrated markets attract skilled workers by offering job mobility and specialized suppliers and service providers- such as parts makers, workforce trainers, marketing firms, or intellectual property lawyers- by providing substantial business opportunities in close proximity. Concentrated markets tend to provide firms with various cost advantages; for example, search costs are reduced, market economies of scale can cut costs, and price competition among suppliers can be heightened. Clusters have been shown to successfully stimulate innovation and improve productivity.

These same regional industry clusters in an innovation (tech) economy bring together workers with a complementary set of skills who work and compete independently within firms. These innovation clusters tend to form around a nexus of research and development capabilities that drive innovation through scientific advancement. …

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