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Postscript to #BIO2012

July 3, 2012

I ran across this article by Vivek Wadhwa yesterday; “Industry clusters: The modern-day snake oil.”  It’s from July 14, 2011.

It resurfaced via a discussion of accelerators.  I found it timely as a postscript to BIO 2012.

Sure, I’ve read Porter’s stuff on clusters.  I’ve probably propagated some cluster theory in the past.  That being said, I think Wadhwa has an interesting perspective.  I do think it boils down to people, as I’ve indicated before.  And I’m definitely a proponent of university research commercialization as a vital component of regional growth.

“Cluster,” as a descriptive term, still has validity for me.  Here’s a March 14, 2012 blog post by Bruce Booth titled “Boston: #1 Cluster for Early Stage Biotech.”  Boston has a “deep concentration of academics, companies, talent and capital.”  Lots of other places don’t.

“[Porter’s] legions of followers postulated that by bringing these ingredients [geographic concentrations of interconnected companies, specialized suppliers and service providers + incentives for businesses to relocate] together into a ‘cluster,’ regions could artificially ferment innovation.”  This is where I wholeheartedly–and unfortunately–agree with Wadhwa; it’s hard to “artificially ferment innovation.”  It’s hard to artificially create a cluster.  Most places can’t pull it off.

But lots of places still try.  As was evident in Boston at BIO 2012. 

June 18th, 2012 BostInno article; “Other States Are Trying to Lure Biotech Away from Massachusetts. Here’s Why They’ll Fail.”  I don’t know how many economic development entities were in attendance at BIO, but I know there were a bunch.  And they weren’t just looking to relocate companies away from Massachusetts.  I think many economic development entities would take a company from anywhere to check that box.  I’d love to know how much money gets spent chasing that elusive relocation.  What’s the ROI? 

Couldn’t that money be used to help the biotech industry in local geographies in other ways?  Here’s an idea.  What if that cash was used to fund some type of Entrepreneur in Residence program?  Match a skilled biotech entrepreneur to a homegrown university technology and see what happens?  Crazy.

Crazier.  What if the dollars were used to fly a team from Anytown, USA to Massachusetts to meet with LifeTech Boston and/or to pitch prospective investors?  Heresy!

P.S. 4s3 Bioscience mentioned in the BostInno article; Tim Harris, President & CEO, is originally from Paducah, KY.

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One Comment
  1. Just came across this from the University of Washington Center for Commercialization; “The EIR program connects seasoned entrepreneurs and business executives with UW researchers whose work may have commercial relevance to start-up teams with an identified business opportunity.” Like the concept! http://depts.washington.edu/uwc4c/start-ups/entrepreneurs-in-residence/

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