I continued the on going dialogue around Innovation Centers with the Minnesota Secretary of State, Mark Ritchie, at his office in St. Paul. We discussed key networking aspects around supporting the North Star Iniative to build support for starting several cluster focused centers in Minnepolis. Some of the conversation included:
- Creation of a corporate advisory board. This group would be comprised of innovation leaders of regional companies and talk about the actual model of center operations and funding structures. This group would support and vest the research being collected until actual operational and governance boards would be formed around specific centers.
- Working with state agencies and corporate venture groups to identify which potential sectors would benefit from clusters focused centers. This conversation is as simple as picking the major clusters we have, but to understand which are so mature that they wouldn’t benefit as much or those that are fading as we lose our advantage. Other considerations are around which sectors we are growing in and could have an emerging cluster. We may have emerging clusters that are horizontally centered, but that makes it hard to bring clusters to align to support them. The balance may be around finding intersects of sectors to horizontal industries. That could leverage the financial strength of the sector with the emerging opportunity of horizontal but retaining a clear focus.
- Looking around the globe at academic institutions that are leading in business and entrepreneurial programs and services. This would have to transcend ideas of simple classes or student based concepts and be more aligned with actual business and venture spaces. We had reworked with a number of global players who where doing actual international business and commercialization. The best programs where heavily infused with corporate and venture practitioners with real experience and ability to apply knowledge. It also demonstrate the best programs where built with a network of academic and corporate partners based on the focus of the centers.
- Minnesota already has some new companies that are leading efforts in pioneering new educational models. New models of educaiton blend learning with working in industry directly. This closes the enormous gap between school and work integrating them together. It redefines the academic buzz word “experiential learning” to learning and doing for real. It redefines today’s concepts of short internships to full time internship is at the core of the DNA. It also promotes the idea of life long learning as a key part of everyones profession and work and education are always continuing together. Innovation Centers provide a cross roads for all of these to converge where students, start-ups, professional are all working and learning together. Students are spending time at school, industry, and in centers. Professional are teaching, mentoring, and staying up to date with the latest tech and trends.
- The formation of international exchange corridors is key to establishing a global brand and capitalizing on the innovations happening around the world for competitive advantage. We had worked with a number of centers and academic programs that where already piloting cohorts of international companies to USA based centers. These two way bridges between centers helped integrate clusters at a global level and would be key to overall model.
- Cluster ecosystems. Given large USA companies have many of the capabilities for international business, partnerships, and commercialization they still are key players and leaders at the centers. If a start-up on the other side of the world has a technology that could disrupt a large companies core business it is a priority for them to understand the situation. For each large company that is either innovative or being disrupted, there are potentially thousands of small and medium sized businesses that can be impacted and the collaboration of the cluster ecosystem is essential for the sustainability and alignment of strategic direction. Leadership is not just innovation or opening new markets, but is in leading and growing the overall ecosystem..
Next steps included identifying key introductions to continue to build the network working on the initiative.