In University and the Creative Economy, Richard Florida and colleagues build an economic development case around a region’s ability to capitalize on innovative technologies and research being produced at universities. Silicon Valley and Research Triangle are exemplary models. What if a region does not have this ability? Appropriately, they suggest a region work on developing the capacity to absorb university output through campus-industry partnerships. Otherwise, valuable intellectual property goes elsewhere. Or, worse off, and probably more common, it disappears into a black hole of uncommercialized ideas and patents.
Now, for regions that have universities but neither the current ability to absorb, nor the means to create a working capacity, is there an additional solution? Is it time for the universities to build their own infrastructure to absorb and commercialize their own creativity? Maybe this is the crossroads where higher education and economic development policy can tango?
How about new policies that substantially invest in universities absorbing their own innovative output when a region is not equipped? Incentivize the universities to transform economy by building infrastructure to commercialize the talent and academic ingenuity they harness. Maybe University Hospitals is a viable model in health care, but expand into other industry development aligned with a university’s output. Maybe we can learn from Chinese university-run businesses. Let’s equip universities, as my grandma used to say, with the whole “kit and caboodle” so a region can benefit.
What’s the risk in doing so?