In the year since we released “The Rise of Innovation Districts: A New Geography of Innovation in America,” Brookings has visited or interacted with dozens of leaders in burgeoning innovation districts in the United States and Europe. In so doing, we’ve sharpened our knowledge of what’s happening on the ground and gained some important insights into how cities and metros are embracing this new paradigm of economy-shaping, place-making, and network-building.
Innovation districts capture the remarkable spatial pattern underway in the innovation economy—the heightened clustering of anchor institutions, companies, and start-ups in small geographic areas of central cities across the United States, Europe, and other global-trading regions.
First, the model of innovation districts has been embraced, co-opted, and (in some cases) misappropriated, further reinforcing the need for grounding this work in empirically based evidence.
Second, the core economic assets of innovation districts are not fixed; in fact,
many innovation districts are being created or enhanced by the relocation of major anchor facilities as institutions strive to achieve the highest return on investment.
Third, almost all innovation districts have significant work ahead to understand the rising value of “place” in the innovation ecosystem and leverage or reconfigure their physical assets to create dense and dynamic communities.
Fourth, the rapid growth and impact of national intermediaries (what we call innovation cultivators) shows real promise in helping innovation districts grow and steward their networking assets and stimulating new innovation opportunities.
Finally, the rise of innovation districts takes place in a national and urban political environment that demands inclusive growth and equitable outcomes.
1. Project for Public Spaces, “Placemaking and Place-Led Development: A New Paradigm for Cities of the Future, available at http://www.pps.org/reference/placemaking-and-place-led-development-a-new-paradigm-for-cities-of-the-future/ (June 15, 2015).
2. Email exchange with Dennis Lower, President and CEO, Cortex Innovation Community, May 8, 2015.