Companies innovate. They learn from each other. Then they innovate some more. Scott Andes, a senior policy analyst at The Brookings Institution, argues that cities can take a page from the private-sector book.

Cities have different economic strengths and weaknesses based on their mix of industries. Some are information-technology centers like Seattle and San Francisco, while others are life science powerhouses like San Diego and Boston. Others lead in advanced manufacturing like Akron, Portland, and Pittsburgh.

Cities should consider which innovation model best fits their industries and craft urban economic policy around their particular model. Here are six strategies for doing so:

  • Recognize that all industries can be innovative, not just software and medical technology startups, and identify the particular innovation pathways utilized by local firms.
  • At research universities, eliminate institution-wide technology transfer practices that focus on licensing and adopt options that allow specific departments and centers to cater to different industries.
  • Establish partnerships with non-research colleges and universities to support firms seeking short-term process innovation.
  • Modify the traditional accelerator model to respond to the innovation needs of startups in nontraditional growth sectors.
  • Link designers, engineers, and software developers in urban centers to manufacturing supply chains in the surrounding regions.
  • Advance the appropriate place-based strategies to increase the density of innovative firms and support organizations.
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