New Jersey policy planners recently gathered at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) to learn from noted MIT Professor Richard K Lester and his associates how to bring entrepreneurs to Newark.
Lester and his researchers recently completed a three-year international study that examined ways to bring about similar results in regions and cities around the world.
Alok Chakrabarti, PhD, distinguished professor of management and industrial engineering in NJIT’s School of Management, a senior research associate on Lester’s team, spoke at length.
“Universities play a significant role,” Chakrabarti said. “They are key to developing a variety of firms. This network eventually becomes the social capital of the region responsible for developing more entrepreneurial businesses. Networks are typically either self-organized or planned and orchestrated.”
The interaction between industry and academia can be a complex process. “Entrepreneurs need different services from different types of universities,” Chakrabarti added. “Usually, larger and better known schools provide the foundation for network building among larger and more resourceful existing firms. At less well- known universities, problem-solving activities take place. For example, Tampere University of Technology in Finland played a critical role in the development of NOKIA, the mobile phone that can is both a PDA and FAX. Closer to home, NJIT has been a leader in the remediation of hazardous and toxic materials in the Northeast region.
Chakrabarti spent several years at MIT on a Sloan Foundation fellowship investigating factors that influence building innovation hot spots. He studied Boston, Finland and the southern tier of New York. He believes that technological universities, such as NJIT, play a significant role in becoming nodal points in the network of venture capital firms, entrepreneurs, vendors and support forums. And, he thinks that technological universities provide trained graduates and partner with entrepreneurs in technology development during the pre-competitive phase.
The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, New Jersey Economic Authority and NJIT sponsored the event.
Lester’s project is an international research partnership that addresses a central issue confronting industrial practitioners and economic policymakers worldwide: How can local economic communities survive and prosper in the rapidly changing global economy?
The focus is on the role of innovation – in products, services, and processes – in promoting productivity growth and competitive advantage at the local and regional levels. National and local governments around the world, as well as other institutions with an interest in economic development, are interested in creating and sustaining a local environment that attract innovators. Firms, too, recognize that their innovation performance is affected by their location.
In the first phase of research, researchers investigate the roles of universities and other public research institutions as creators, receptors, and interpreters of innovation and ideas; as sources of human capital; and as key components of social infrastructure and social capital. Different approaches to individual and institutional leadership in locally-based systems of innovation is also studied. Later phases of research explore enterprise growth and how different locations attract and retain firms.