A comprehensive and effective regional innovation clusters program should bridge the gap between federal support and bottom-up, local leadership. To effectively accomplish this goal, we detail here three key features that should be implemented as part of the federal effort. The first two would be housed in the Economic Development Administration, or EDA. The third would be coordinated through the White House and executed by each agency that contributes directly to the success of regional clusters:
- A competitive grants process to foster the commercialization of the best innovative products and services
- Networking to ensure regional clusters have the data they need to chart smart strategies, including through information technology and with the federal government playing the role of “convener,” identifying regional stakeholders, introducing them to each other, and encouraging their interaction
- Coordination across federal efforts, including through the availability of expert assistance through, for example, one-stop shops that would offer advice and help from multiple federal, state, and local programs designed to support the creation of regional clusters.
In addition to implementing these three features of a federal innovation clusters program, a set of comprehensive metrics must be developed in order to enable a sophisticated understanding of the impacts of cluster-based strategies. Let’s consider each of these features in turn.
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