Prosperity, growth, longevity, and innovation are all words communities love to be known for. Words like these attract new residents and companies, spur economic expansion and ultimately bring new jobs to the area. Of course, these words can’t be used lightly. Anyone can say they are a community focused on innovation and technological advancement, but the proof is in the pudding. While there are many pieces involved in an economically thriving region, one element that stands out time and time again is the emergence of a collaborative center: A place where ideas are encouraged and cultivated, where innovation and creativity are translated into tangible results. This development core is commonly referred to as a technology hub (tech hub and the tech scene is not just all about San Francisco, London, New York City, or Berlin. Many cities and countries are seeing the effect a tech ecosystem can have in diversifying the economy and creating new and exciting opportunities. These emerging tech hubs have brought new developments and innovation such as ground-breaking solar-power initiatives, entire streets housing a bustling community of tech start-ups, to digital societies and creative tech industries right next to the beach.
Simply speaking, tech hubs are a space or region where a high density of startup companies cluster together and become part of the economic infrastructure of the community. That doesn’t happen overnight of course, but in the end, the success of a tech hub can be at least partly measured by the number of products that have been commercialized or companies developed because of its existence. A tech hub is a place where things happen faster, where ideation and product development can be streamlined. It’s like gathering everyone needed to bring an idea from concept to reality and putting them in the same room at the same time, only, in this case, it’s a geographic region. Tech hubs educate and encourage new talent and ways of thinking; they provide a space where high-tech business growth can be accelerated and in turn, bring prosperity to the community.
This tech hub concept can sound a bit utopian and idealistic, but there are many successful stories, one of them - Michigan has successfully installed 17 tech hubs in both the upper and lower peninsulas. Termed SmartZone's, these are spaces where technology-based firms, entrepreneurs and researchers all gather and work together by utilizing community resources for the betterment of everyone. SmartZones partner with local colleges and universities to attract and retain talent and high-tech innovation. They provide access to mentors, equipment, expertise, business incubators and help companies secure necessary startup financing. SmartZones are there to connect the dots in an accelerated fashion, forming partnerships that may not take place otherwise, and making growth possible. For example, Automation Alley, Start Garden, CMURC and Lake Shore Advantage are all considered part of the Michigan SmartZone network. Within all zones, the focus is about bringing businesses, schools, and organizations under one roof as a technology cluster. Together, they work toward high-tech idea commercialization, patent development, and startup company incubation.
Tech Hubs draw professionals from the IT landscape to not just visit but stay and make that geographic region their home, also it influences startups to remain and continue the relationship that began with an idea, boosting the economy of that community at the same time. Companies see talent as an asset and invest in places where talent is generated and retained. Tech Hubs do that for a community. Anchored by an institution of higher learning, Tech Hubs are constantly changing to meet the needs of an ever-evolving technology environment enabling innovators to reach for the stars. Tech Hubs make many initiatives alive and well. The commonality between all of them is this: when you provide high-tech talent with access to education, mentorship, and funding, they create economic impacts that reverberate throughout the region resulting in a better livelihood for everyone.
Flying in the face of cyberspace and virtual connectivity, physical clusters of like-minded businesses can energize and accelerate enterprise. There are many reasons why people create startups, but why do they choose one city over another when launching their project? Why are some cities more successful than others in attracting the attention of entrepreneurs, investors, fresh talent, mentors and press? The answer can be found by looking at the incentives and opportunities a city offers and whether the quality of the environment encourages a company to start the innovation. It is really a mix of a number of venture builders, venture capitals, tech companies, tech events organized in a city, acceptance level by citizens and government, open-minded entrepreneurs, quality of ecosystem, access to capital, burn rate and many many more. But what is important to understand is that a strong local economy is a critical point here; studies show that entrepreneurial environments are caused by strong economies to fuel specialized business, not the other way around. Governmental support can be provided only if the economy of the country may afford it and thus support is a common factor of all current innovation hubs, cities. In the following picture you can see 15 aspects to be aware before choosing a location for the start-up:
Where the next new ideas will come from depends on which markets can best leverage their natural advantages and assets such as state-of-the-art tech parks, quality education systems and government incentives to spur innovation. It also relies on which businesses can best apply innovation principles in their corporate culture to create economic value. The C-suite is the corporate nerve center to align innovation and commercial results, which are the hallmark of an effective corporate strategy. It is no longer enough in today’s corporate environment to dominate in one sector. The global tech leaders of tomorrow are moving rapidly into a broad number of diverse businesses that are far from their original corporate mission. Platform companies are at the forefront of this trend. The world is increasingly becoming a magical mix of emerging technologies that are revolutionizing the way we live and work. Maneuvering through this maze of advances and staying ahead will continue to challenge the next generation of global leaders. The ecosystem for emerging technological breakthroughs continues to grow on a global scale. This ecosystem is increasingly supported by more incubators, corporate and government investment in start-ups and new ideas, and consolidated strength among a core group of tech titans. As tech innovation continues to spread to more cities, the hope is a better future for all across life, society and the environment.