Cluster Science: New Approaches

14 Sep

So what can Los Angeles do to better nurture emerging industry sectors? Entrepreneur and investor Richard Hull offers some solutions that may be applicable. First, he suggests that LA appoint a “performance director” that would be responsible for coordination, communication, and making timely connections to accelerate the startup process. This would connect startups to “local incubators, experienced local entrepreneurs, investors and other local business startup resources.”

For local universities that play a critical role in each of these sectors, they may consider a model similar to StartX, a non-profit created by Stanford University students. The organization launched in 2010 to provide startup acceleration support to the university’s entrepreneurial students. It has supported more than 240 founders and 90 companies. This type of model could help Los Angeles-area institutions retain and nurture talent locally. Still, it’s worth noting that StartX has received a degree of notoriety that has coaxed funders to invest in the endeavor.

In a similar vein, L.A. area local governments may want to examine focusing on significant infrastructure investments in each sector. New York City’s Applied Sciences NYC dedicated about $100 million and a large piece of real estate to the institution with the best idea for creating a graduate engineering program. The program supports the City’s efforts to promote key economic sectors, with the goal of attracting investment, jobs, and innovation. Cornell University and Technion Israel Institute of Technology were selected by the City to open and operate an innovation center on Roosevelt Island. The schools pledge to educate some 2,500 engineering graduate students each year at the Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute.

Strategies like these (both major and minor) may help Los Angeles build on its considerable asset base. It will take a lot of players and plenty of coordination to pull this off. But with a vision and a clear strategy, L.A. might have a better chance of becoming the next big cluster success story.

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