Factors for Fostering Regional Scientific Research Output
If we've established at least a correlating link between research output in a region and economic success, the next logical though is "what are some solid steps to making this happen?". The Nature.com article goes on to give advice for would-be technology hub cities:
“From case studies, Mary Walshok, a sociologist at the University of California, San Diego, picks out three important factors that make cities sticky for scientists. Promise them the freedom to work on their own ideas. Then give them the tools and infrastructure to do so. Public funding is key to achieving these first two aims, but local private corporations and philanthropists who endow new buildings or research chairs also help. "You can see this happening in Austin, and in Seattle," says Walshok.”
The article continues on, highlighting "lifestyle":
“Walshok's third factor is an attractive lifestyle. Richard Florida, a sociologist and economist at the University of Toronto's Martin Prosperity Institute in Canada, lists scientists among the 'creative class': mobile, talented, creative thinkers that a city must lure in with amenities and smart urban planning.”
The article also highlights the need for public + private partnerships to drive the first two, which we'll touch more on in a minute. Outside.com has already rated Chattanooga as the "Best Town Ever", so I think we have "attactive lifestyle" covered.
At this point its easy to say "well this doesn't sound too hard", but the study does outline some specific examples where investment did not pan out as well as the city had hoped. The go on to point out how some research is not easy to commercialize, and that you cannot always setup a few labs and expect to attract outside talent to pick up and invest in roots in your area:
Even with the right ingredients — freedom, funding and lifestyle — to attract and keep scientists, there is no guarantee that their work will generate economic wealth. Lobo points out that New Mexico probably has the highest number of physicists per capita in the United States, thanks to the Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories, but it is hardly an economic powerhouse, as the research doesn't lend itself to commercialization. Boston, on the other hand, has a strong foundation of basic science that has attracted companies and institutes, which in turn has created wealth and attracted more top scientists.
Boston's economic resilience, born of a diverse labour force, is key to this virtuous cycle. Science is merely the latest in a series of economic rebirths — from being the largest city in early colonial America, to a centre for global shipping and sailing in the nineteenth century, to its current position as a biotech hub. Similar tales of success are told for the San Francisco area, with its attractive climate, culture of adventurous investment and laws that favour creative workers.
Getting established industry researchers and practictioners to move to your town and start an industry from scratch is a tall hill to climb most times. Silicon Valley took nealy 50 years to become what it is today, and Boston is one of the oldest cities in the United States. In terms of exemplar cities to emulate, they are poor direct examples for cities like Chattanooga. What we do find as a compelling exemplar city is Austin, TX.
Austin as a Model for Mid-Sized City Research Investment
We want to point out Austin, TX as a great example of what "could-be" for a mid-sized city with a solid academic institution nearby, along with an attractive lifestyle. Another interesting correlation is that Texas in general is culturally similar to Tennessee, at least more so than Boston or Silicon Valley. Both Chattanooga and Austin are river towns and have vibrant downtowns with a nearby university system. The major difference to point out is how highly the University of Texas (Austin) ranks on the publication list (quantity, and quality), versus how the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga does not show up on these lists.
If Chattanooga could produce 1/3 of the successful startups listed above for Austin, and could get any one of the major companies to build a lab in the area, what would that be worth to the local economy?
Remember, the sepecific factor these companies came to Austin for was the abundance of quality workforce suitable for high-tech jobs. These workforce was there because of the University of Texas, and more notably was trained by the graduate programs by high producing world-class researchers.
“There is a very strong track record of places that attract talent becoming places of long-term success,” said Edward Glaeser, an economist at Harvard and author of “Triumph of the City.” “The most successful economic development policy is to attract and retain smart people and then get out of their way.”
Austin gets talented folks to move there for school, and then they keep these candidates in the local region with lifestyle and top-tier jobs. Austin may not have the same number of billion-dollar exits as Silicon Valley, but it doesn't need to that in order to enjoy regional economic success based on the rise of the technology industry. Simply put, Austin has made investments in their graduate program and, over time (not over night), enjoyed higher economic output for their region while creating more derivative jobs for non-technology workers in the process:
"The economic effects reach beyond the work the young people do, according to Enrico Moretti, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of “The New Geography of Jobs.” For every college graduate who takes a job in an innovation industry, he found, five additional jobs are eventually created in that city, such as for waiters, carpenters, doctors, architects and teachers."