Once in a while, a major rankings and policy report comes out that becomes a must-read (in part because the rankings are by turns comprehensive and laser-like in their focus and the authors enjoy respected reputations). And so it is with The 2007 State New Economy Index (full disclosure: the Kauffman Foundation cosponsored this report) prepared by Dr. Robert D. Atkinson and Daniel K. Correa, both with the Washington, DC-based Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.
This report, which has appeared twice before in 1999 and 2002, is a sprawling affair and covers nearly every nook and cranny in regard to how the U.S. states rank relative to their technology, innovation, and entrepreneurial assets.
For this post, rather than focus on the rankings exclusively, it may be more of interest to readers here to see what Atkinson and Correa say in regard to universities relative to technology transfer and entrepreneurial activity across the 50 states.
On this front, Atkinson and Correa proclaim that “innovative capacity (derived through universities, R&D investments, scientists and engineers, and entrepreneurial drive) is increasingly what drives competitive success in the New Economy.” And when it comes to understanding how to evaluate properly economic growth in a state, the authors offer the reminder that it’s not about job creation — instead, it’s about per capita income. And the driver for growth in this metric is “innovation, not [by] capital accumulation.”
In regard to colleges and universities and their respective state economies, the authors make several pointed recommendations focused on how to build dynamic innovation and entrepreneurial-based economies. First, they urge states to “enhance the role of colleges and universities” in spurring regional innovation and growth. “Between 1991 and 2004,” say Atkinson and Correa, “the number of patent applications filed by United States universities increased from 13.7 applications per institution to 57.8, licensing income increased from $1.96 million per university to $7.06 million, and new university-based start-ups increased from 212 in 1994, to 462 in 2004.”
In addition, the authors urge states to match their investments in their universities to prevailing state industry clusters. The report also recommends universities create programs to develop and recruit “star” scientists (“more than 90 percent of of the most significant university R&D is performed by just 10 percent of the faculty”) as well as urges states to “focus on commercialization of research” out of its university-based labs (and cites Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center and the Iowa State Innovation System as good examples of programs that spur connections between researchers and industry).