The Next Silicon Valley Is…

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The next Silicon Valley will rise in a city, according to a new report from the Brookings Institution.

While Silicon Valley is viewed as synonymous with innovation, Brookings believes that a “new complementary urban model” will emerge, complete with infrastructure that gives it an advantage over what the think tank refers to as “spatially isolated corporate campuses, accessible only by car, with little emphasis on the quality of life or on integrating work, housing and recreation.” (Er, take that, Northern California! Or not, because companies based in Silicon Valley happily continue to innovate and earn billions.)

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These urban innovation incubators (say that five times fast) will not only be physically compact, but feature excellent public transportation options and communications infrastructure. “Our most creative institutions, firms and workers crave proximity so that ideas and knowledge can be transferred more quickly and seamlessly,” Brookings’ report added. “Our ‘open innovation’ economy rewards collaboration, transforming how buildings and entire districts are designed and spatially arrayed.”

So where are these new urban hubs appearing? While New York City has spent the past several years promoting itself as “Silicon Alley” to startups and established tech companies, other cities have leveraged their proximity to anchor institutions such as universities to promote their own capacity for innovation—cities such as Raleigh-Durham, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Detroit and more.

Brookings believes the rise of urban-centric tech communities can revive moribund economies: “At a time of rising social inequality, they offer the prospect of expanding employment and educational opportunities for disadvantaged populations given that many districts are close to low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.” (Many residents in San Francisco would disagree with that assessment, as the local tech boom as increased tensions between that city’s wealthier community and many longtime residents.) But the Institution also feels that, in order for such zones to reach their full potential, they need all of the following factors:

  • Innovation Drivers: The startups, entrepreneurs, universities and established companies that propel progress forward.
  • Innovation Cultivators: Entities “that support the growth of individuals, firms, and their ideas,” such as accelerators and incubators.
  • Amenities: Because people need to eat, sleep and drink caffeine.
  • Physical Assets: Brookings breaks this one into several subcategories, including “physical assets in the public realm” and “physical assets in the private realm.” Simply put, tech pros and employers need office space, transportation options and other real assets in order to get their jobs done (and lives lived).
  • Networking Assets: Firms and people in close proximity with one another can create a positive feedback loop of advice, contacts and leads.

You can download the full report here. While major urban areas such as New York City have spent years cultivating their respective tech scenes, that doesn’t prevent other cities from developing their own—so long as their leaders establish collaborations with tech firms, set a vision for growth and boost access to capital and other resources.

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Comments

  1. BY jelabarre says:

    Well, Kingston NY has “Tech City” (the old IBM facility) which has been promoting itself as a new high-tech center. Kind of an overflow-area for Albany & Malta NY, which *are* becoming tech meccas, yet not completely removed from NYC Forget about NYC as a tech center: what real talent wants to move to that stinkhole?

  2. BY Rob S says:

    You’ve missed the one place that I’ve seen tremendous growth in the last 2-3 years: Austin, TX. While I’d prefer for it to be in my own SoCal, I suspect that the business climate (aka tax structure) is not as good in CA or NY so why would startups want to risk failing because revenue keeps getting sucked out of their hard-earned dollars.
    Time will tell, but if I were ready for a career move, it would be there (although the traffic would drive me nuts until they get their infrastructure in place.)

  3. BY Wayne Hansen says:

    Has anyone thought of the neighbor to the north Canada? Alberta is considered the Texas of the north and Calgary is one of the most important urban hubs in Canada, to the US and other destinations. It would be an ideal place to setup a new Silicon Valley in North America. With the dollar value a bit less than the US there would be a great financial advantage. Calgary is a modern City with excellent public transit including an LRT that reaches most parts of the city.
    It is a very modern high tech city and viewed as a White Collar city and the American city of the North. I would suggest that big US and International companies give consideration to establishing and building an all inclusive Silicon city within the city of Calgary where factories, campuses, residences and amenities can all be located in one area.

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