Innovations to Watch: 2012 Recap

Last year, the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program identified 10 “State and Metropolitan Innovations to Watch.” These represent our assessment of the most promising new practices undertaken by states and metropolitan areas across five key areas—exports, low carbon, innovation, opportunity and governance—that seem ripe for meaningful impact as well as for replication by other communities. With the release of our 2013 list of Innovations to Watch, we checked in with the 2012 selections to find impressive progress, and in some cases initial signs of innovative ideas being implemented in other states and metros.

Exports

METRO

Los Angeles, California – From Regional Export Council to Export Champions

In March 2012, the Los Angeles Regional Export Council (LARExC) launched its Regional Export Plan. The plan identified target industries for export promotion efforts, established a marketing strategy to increase the global profile of the region and firms expanding sales abroad and identified new performance metrics to gauge the success of implementation. In addition, LARExC began operating as a full-fledged organization: The council received funding for operations from the Port of Los Angeles and JPMorgan Chase; led international trade missions to Chile (focused on medical equipment), Japan (focused on consumer products), and Hong Kong (focused on textiles and fashion); conducted 15 trade seminars focused on small and medium sized businesses; and recruited six firms to its export champions program.

STATE

Michigan - Clearing Hurdles for the New International Trade Crossing

The New International Trade Crossing, a major proposed bridge linking Detroit and Windsor, Ont., was the highlight of our 2012 focus of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s infrastructure plans for the state. Despite continued opposition from the operator of the existing cross-border Ambassador Bridge, plans for the new bridge continued in the last year, with the Canadian government officially agreeing to fully finance the $1 billion project in June. Michigan voters also rejected a ballot initiative in November crafted to stop the project, which would have required another round of voter approval for international crossings from the state. The next step is approval from the Obama administration, pursuant to the International Bridge Act of 1972.


Low Carbon

METRO

San Diego – Smarter San Diego: Expanding Access to Electric Vehicles

The deployment of electric vehicle technology in San Diego took exciting steps in 2012. The California Energy Commission awarded UC San Diego, in partnership with two charging manufacturers, a $340,000 grant to build world-leading campus EV infrastructure. In addition, the city of San Diego brought to scale the nation’s first all-electric car-sharing service through Daimler subsidiary car2go, quickly accumulating more than 12,500 members who have taken more than 200,000 trips using the service.

STATE

Connecticut – Green Bank Deployment and Replication

The Connecticut Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA) has both begun to make and facilitate clean energy and energy efficiency investments, and emerged as a model for other states. In 2012, CEFIA invested in new projects including solar PV deployment, energy efficient installations on the state’s college campuses, and a 15 MW fuel cell power plant in Bridgeport, CT, one of the largest in the world. In June, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signed legislation enabling CEFIA to manage a new commercial property-assessed clean energy (PACE) program, enabling property owners to take out low-interest loans for energy-efficiency upgrades or onsite renewable energy via CEFIA-backed PACE bonds, paid back with energy cost savings. This month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a similar $1 billion “green bank,” and states like Hawaii, Montana, Rhode Island and California are considering similar initiatives.


Innovation

METRO

New York, NY – Applied Sciences NYC: Campus Expansion, Class in Session

The Manhattan Community Board approved Cornell’s land use plan for the flagship Applied Sciences NYC campus on Roosevelt Island. This January Cornell welcomes students to its initial “beta class” for a one-year master’s of engineering program temporarily housed in Google’s New York City headquarters. In addition, New York City announced two new Applied Sciences NYC campuses within the city. A consortium led by New York University is establishing a Center for Urban and Science Progress (CUSP) in Brooklyn, and Columbia University is creating a new Institute for Data Science on the University’s main campus in Morningside Heights.

STATE

Tennessee – Launching Regional Startup Ecosystems

Tennessee’s entrepreneurship and innovation efforts expanded in 2012 with the creation of LaunchTN, a new five-year public-private partnership overseeing all of the state’s entrepreneurship and innovation programs—including the regionally-focused INCITE Co-Investment Fund, highlighted among last year’s Innovations to Watch. Over the last year, Tennessee’s nine regional business accelerators, under guidance from LaunchTN, provided support to nearly 100 early-stage companies, which together raised over $17 million in private capital and created over 200 jobs. The INCITE fund also invested $7.1 million in Tennessee-based companies, matched by $18.6 million in private investment. These investments, paired with a focus on tech transfer and commercialization, has driven a dramatic increase in startups spun out of state research institutions—up 70 percent in the last year and 200 percent in the past two years. To ensure these efforts are sustained, LaunchTN named a board of directors that includes some of the state’s leading entrepreneurs and investors as well as representatives from some of the state’s leading research institutions and companies including Vanderbilt University, Oak Ridge National Lab, Eastman Chemical Company, FedEx, and Smith & Nephew.


Opportunity

METRO

Seattle, WA – A Race to the Top Road Map

The Road Map Project in Greater Seattle got a substantial endorsement and support in 2012 in the form of a federal Race to the Top grant. A consortium of the seven school districts involved, which cover 261 schools serving 150,000 students, were awarded $40 million over four years—the largest grant awarded—to support the project’s integrated and personalized cradle-to-college approach, with funding for early learning, STEM education, and college preparation.

STATE

North Carolina – Progress on Pathways to Success

For the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS)’s comprehensive statewide community college initiative SuccessNC, 2011 was a year of identifying strategies, and 2012 was the first full year of implementation and execution. So in the last year, a number of SuccessNC’s comprehensive statewide strategies have seen significant developments, from new pilots to fully implemented programs. The “Career and College Promise,” for example, (which was implemented in 2012) is a partnership with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and University of North Carolina System, which offers dual-enrollment between high schools and community colleges with a pathway to UNC college credit, a credential, certificate or diploma in a technical career, or a high school diploma and two years of college credit in just four to five years. And SuccessNC’s “Code Green Super Curriculum Improvement Project,” (which is being piloted now and will be rolled out beginning in fall 2013) streamlines technical education in core skills to be better aligned with industry-recognized credentials and integrates the fast-growing, cross-industry topics of clean technology and energy efficiency.


Governance

METRO

Northeast Ohio– Magnet: Attracting New Partners

Northeast Ohio’s Partnership for Regional Innovation Services to Manufacterers (PRISM), launched by the region’s business planning initiative, has expanded its reach in 2012. The Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (Magnet), which manages PRISM, announced a partnership in October with four universities—Cleveland State University, Case Western Reserve, Lorain County Community College, and the University of Akron. Magnet will now be able to connect small and medium sized manufacturers in the region with faculty, students, facilities and equipment in the specific areas of specialty for each institution (e.g. polymers at the University of Akron), to facilitate research and product development. The partnership is part of Magnet’s aggressive growth strategy: it has worked with 12 firms to date who project the collaboration will lead to $275 million in new revenue and 450 new jobs by 2014, and hopes to reach more than 100 firms by 2017.

STATE

New York – Regional Economic Development Goes Two Rounds

New York State’s bottom-up regional economic development planning competition, featured in our 2012 Innovations to Watch for state governance, saw the beginning of implementation of the first round of regional plans as well as a new round of awards in the a last year. Each of the “best plan” regions saw significant progress in developing their plans: Western New York, centered around Buffalo, for example, completed the “site control” phase in construction of its new Industrial Trade Center; North Country secured $30 million in Industrial Revenue Bonds to fund a new biomass electric facility; Central New York supported construction of the CNY Biotech Accelerator, scheduled for completion in 2013; and the Long Island’s publically-supported research collaborative launched a public-private emerging technologies commercialization fund. And throughout the state, the councils have become central to coordinating any economic development initiatives. In December, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced $738 million for the second round of regional council funding, with the Finger Lakes, Mid-Hudson, and Southern Tier regions winning this year’s “best plan” awards.