Partnerships Accelerate Innovation Ecosystems

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), November 17, 2018 | Go to article overview

Partnerships Accelerate Innovation Ecosystems


Byline: DYLAN JONES-EVANS

Iwas delighted this week to be back in the USA with a brilliant group of Welsh start-ups to work with one of the world's leading universities, namely the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The aim of the visit was to understand some of the key aspects of the innovation ecosystem developed around MIT and, more importantly, to understand whether there were any lessons from their experiences for the Welsh economy.

The city of Boston and its surrounding areas is now seen as one of the primary innovation regions in the world, not least because of the technology that emerges from over 50 academic institutions including MIT and the world-class Harvard University.

These universities also teach those talented young people who are not only in demand from large corporates such as Google, IBM, Facebook, Amazon and Uber but who are also increasingly looking to set up their own businesses. Indeed, the United States Chamber of Commerce named Boston as the best American city for fostering entrepreneurial start-ups in both 2016 and 2017.

These budding entrepreneurs also have access to funding, with Boston ranked fourth in the world for venture capital (behind San Francisco, San Jose and New York), with PS35bn invested between 2010-17 in highgrowth sectors such as life sciences and digital health.

But one of the reasons why the region around MIT has become one of the world's leading areas for new businesses and technologies is that the university is not alone in supporting this. There is a vibrant innovation ecosystem that brings together large firms, entrepreneurs, equity investors, academics and government in a seamless partnership where the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.

That is why a visit to a large refurbished warehouse building in the docks area of Boston last Tuesday was of particular interest, as it encompassed this model perfectly.

During the economic downturn in 2008, two strategy experts working at the global consultancy Bain & Company had a vision of a creative, inspired society in which everyone is empowered and has the resources to maximise their impact. To achieve this, they set up a new type of organisation to make it as easy as possible for entrepreneurs to launch and grow new ventures.

So in 2010 they launched Mass-Challenge, an accelerator programme which would focus on creating a movement to support entrepreneurship and putting valuecreation at the heart of the global economy.

Like all accelerators, it would support early-stage, growth-driven companies for a fixed period of time (four months) and, through an intensive programme of education, mentoring and financing, would "accelerate" their development into viable investor-ready businesses that could create jobs and wealth both locally and globally. …

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