Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Build it… and they will come

I admit that I am a sucker for magazines that showcase other people’s success (and so are you…). For me, publications like Inc., Forbes, and Entrepreneur are a guilty pleasure because, like most people, I enjoy a happy ending. These publications, and now even more so, blogs, put color on the more finite details of how those success stories became magazine covers. Oftentimes the war stories, the failures, provenance, or even luck that occurs on the journey are more interesting than the result (remarkable exit, billion dollar company, etc.). With very limited exception, collaboration is the common thread that holds innovation together and can be traced all the way to some of the success stories that we read about on the newsstand shelf (okay, on your iPad/Notebook, etc...).

I am always curious about where the collaboration comes from, or where they “go” to find what they need. Universities have taken a step into providing those resources by creating centers for entrepreneurship. In our area, the University of North Dakota has a great track record of generating serial entrepreneurs and has the Centers for Innovation, one of the first of its kind in the U.S. 

This article about the “Top 50 Entrepreneurship Programs” lists what the qualifications are to be considered for a ranking (the University of North Dakota does not make the top 25 list, further proving my theory of a national conspiracy of anti-North Dakota bias and “North Dakota envy”…). Without exception, the centers consider externships, internships, non-curriculum based activities and contests (usually outside the university setting), and guess what… collaboration or some type of partnering.

So, outside of the university setting, what kinds of collaboration resources are there? The ‘90s gave us the advent of the incubator, where many dot.coms and e-based businesses got their start. The 2000s gave us accelerators where carefully reviewed concepts and even established businesses would be put in a collaborative environment to rapidly push products/services into the market, often backed by venture funds or industry partners. So what about this decade? How about an "Innovation House?"

Innovation based on collaboration in a centralized location isn’t new. There is no shortage of studies that support the conclusion that getting innovators, even from diverse industries, to work on ideas, develop accountability, and share expertise in strategic areas leads to greater innovation. However, what about creating clusters based on national origin? Having had a front row seat to international innovation entering the U.S. market, we don’t often see a national flag “flying” over a center of innovation, but yet our European counterparts have been doing this for years, with great success.

Often a collaboration among government, industry, and trade resources, many European (and specifically Nordic) countries rank at the top of countries that innovate, and much of that is largely the result of collaboration. Also, because of the relatively small populations of those countries, it shouldn’t be a surprise that they often support foreign trade offices and centers where their domestic businesses can find support and connectivity even in the most remote locations globally. 

As an example, Norway already has a diplomatic consulate and a highly regarded Innovation Norway office in San Francisco, and now an Innovation House in Palo Alto. One thing is certain—they must be serious about supporting innovation.

No comments :

Post a Comment