Innovation in Real Places

I’m in the midst of reading an excellent new book from the University of Toronto’s Dan Breznitz:  Innovation in Real Places:  Strategies for Prosperity in an Unforgiving World.  I’ve enjoyed Breznitz’s past work which includes an excellent study of Israel’s innovation ecosystem. This new book makes the case that copying Silicon Valley is not the most effective strategy for building an innovative community or region.  The Silicon Valley model, with its emphasis on venture capital and high-tech industry, is simply too unique to be effectively replicated in most “real places.”  I’m not sure that this claim is new to most economic developers who have long understood that Silicon Valley is a unique model.  But, Breznitz goes beyond this simple claim and offers useful guidance on how to develop localized and customized strategies to foster innovation.  In his model, innovation is not about high-tech or about new inventions.  It is about “the continuous stream of implementation of large and small innovations, making those inventions more useful in more sectors of the economy, more reliable, and significantly cheaper, while constantly innovation in their sales, marketing, and after-sales services.”  This approach can apply to all industries and all regions, and the book also offers useful guidance on how local leaders can identify and exploit their competitive niches with global supply chains and global markets.  A very useful guide and review of the current state of innovation policies.