Global CONNECT™: a network committed to growing new technology clusters worldwide


Unraveling the Cultural and Social Dynamics of Regional Innovation Systems

(Supported by NSF Grant # 0914793)

Mary Lindenstein Walshok, Ph.D., Principal Investigator

Joshua D. Shapiro, Ph.D.

Nathan J. Owens, M.A.

Download the full Summary Report here.  [ PDF ]

Project Description:

Our research focused on three cities in America - Philadelphia, St. Louis, and San Diego - which have high levels of research activity of potential value to growing science and technology based companies. This multiyear study involved significant data on regional characteristics, survey responses from 215 technology companies and 89 innovation intermediary organizations, and 126 interviews.  It has elucidated a variety of characteristics of innovation focused intermediary organizations (e.g. trade associations, networking groups, incubators, etc.) which may affect the levels of success cities have in identifying, qualifying, supporting and financing technology based startup companies.

The hypothesis was that different rates of technology business startups in regions quite similar in terms of R&D inputs could be explained by the number of boundary-spanning networking groups and frequency of boundary-spanning activities in the region. The premise was that entrepreneurial science and technology enterprises require high levels of risk, constant attention and recalibration on multiple fronts so that a new idea, technology, or process can find its way into the marketplace as a valuable product. Interdisciplinary, cross-functional organizations are important.  They are critical to the knowledge flows, the expertise, and trust building which enable innovation and risk taking.

The research resulted in insights into social dynamics useful to future research on regional innovation capacity.  Our findings are that intermediary boundary-spanning organizations (the networking groups) in all three cities though roughly equivalent in number and in some cases, amount of activity delivered very different kinds of expertise, know-how and connections to resources.  This appears to have been influenced by the characteristics of the legacy industries in each of the regions, and the social and cultural dynamics which have been shaped by the core economic activities and key demographic characteristics of the people who migrated to each region.  Not all networking organizations are the same.


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