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Secretary Gregory Bialecki, Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development

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Secretary Gregory Bialecki, Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development

A few months ago I described the basic principles of the Patrick Administration’s “innovation agenda”.  We have done a lot of work since then, and I thought it would be helpful to describe in greater detail the various initiatives that we are pursuing, in collaboration with industry and academia.

We are:

1.  Highlighting the Central Role of Innovation in Our Economy.  The first and most important part of our agenda is simply to make the case, all across the state, that an innovation agenda must be at the core of our state’s economic development strategy.  It may seem obvious to some that innovation has been and will continue to be our key competitive advantage in a very competitive world (or, as the Governor likes to say, “innovation is our edge”). But I can assure you that many Massachusetts residents do not immediately see the connection between innovation and their own economic prospects. We are working very hard to make those connections more visible to people all around the state, by demonstrating that our successes in many industry sectors beyond the “tech” sectors (including manufacturing, financial services and health care, for example) are based on continuing innovation and by demonstrating the number of people employed by businesses that serve as vendors and suppliers to innovation companies.

2.  Promoting Cluster-Based Collaboration.  We are encouraging industry and academia to form cluster-based collaboratives that can inform us about the shared priorities of the cluster and work with us to address those priorities. Great progress has already been made (by us and by others) in establishing active and engaged collaboratives in “core” innovation sectors like life sciences, clean energy, digital technology and design, as well in emerging “edge” innovation sectors like digital marketing, robotics and electronic medical records.  (We are a rich environment for these “edge” innovation sectors because of the diversity of innovation thinking here.)  These growing cluster-based collaboratives will naturally extend across state lines, as the clusters themselves do, and there are signs that this is already happening.

3.  Improving Public Education.  We already have a strong foundation here, with one of the best public education systems in the country, if not the world.  But we are focused on the further reforms still needed to reduce persistent achievement gaps and we are organizing and enhancing STEM education efforts through a newly-formed STEM Education Coordinating Council.

4.  Attracting and Retaining Young Talent.  We have begun, in collaboration with many others, a serious statewide effort to recruit and retain young talent here in Massachusetts. One of the core audiences of our new “Massachusetts: It’s All Here” marketing campaign is our local student population. Other recent initiatives include “Stay in MA” (organized by Flybridge Capital), “innovation open houses” (organized by Scott Kirsner of the Boston Globe) and “young people’s forums” (organized by Governor Patrick).

5.  Expanding Mentoring for Young Entrepreneurs.  We were the founding sponsors, with Desh Deshpande, the Kaufman Foundation and Microsoft, of MassChallenge, a new statewide business plan competition (starting in 2010) that will (among other good things) create a new statewide network of volunteer mentors for competition entrants. Other recent initiatives by others include TechStars Boston and “Open Office Hours”.

6.  Addressing Funding Gaps for Start-Ups.  Through the newly created Life Sciences Center and Clean Energy Center, we are providing public funding for start-ups and growing companies of promise that are facing funding gaps in the private equity markets.

7.  Supporting Basic Research.  Our reputation for innovation excellence begins with the great research being done here.  We cannot take that for granted.  We are working with MIT, UMass and BU, and with industry partners EMC and Cisco, to develop a green high performance computing center in Holyoke that will allow these great research universities to remain on the cutting edge of scientific discovery.  Through the Life Sciences Center, we are making research grants to junior researchers so that our best young talent will stay here at home.

8.  Investing in Infrastructure.  We are using state and federal funding to extend broadband connectivity all across the state.  We are improving roads and rail lines to support growing innovation clusters all around the state, including the life sciences cluster in Worcester and the tech cluster in Littleton and Westford.  We are working with a number of local communities to encourage new housing options that are attractive and affordable to young people and young families.

9.  Telling Our Story.  The Governor and I are using every chance we get to brag about the breadth and depth of our innovation economy. But more importantly, we are enlisting everyone’s help in telling the story also. We have moved the state’s business marketing function out of a state agency and into a public-private collaborative called “Massachusetts: It’s All Here”.  We partner closely with MassEcon’s “ambassadors” program and Boston World Partnership’s “ connectors program, through which these organizations are recruiting and organizing dozens of local business people who are excited to spread the word about the opportunities here.

10.  Welcoming the World.  We know that Massachusetts will only continue to be a global innovation hub if continues to be well-connected to the other great centers of innovation around the world.  We strive to be welcoming to anyone from anywhere who wants to work, study, visit or locate a business here. For example, in looking at a possible expansion of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, we are focusing our attention on the opportunities for hosting international conventions and conferences in the areas where we have strong local innovation clusters.

We are going to accomplish even more in 2010, which is shaping up as an exciting year for the state’s innovation economy.

What have we missed? What else is going on, or should be?

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