SIN Centers: An Investment in Ideas

Tags: Economic Development

Robert W. Jennings is owner of Captar Group. 513-652-1313

Today's entrepreneurs are developing new ideas, patents, systems, and technologies that could have a profound and sustainable impact on our ability to promote the next generation of green supply chains. For many of them, however, progress is slowed or halted by a lack of reliable funding and effective economic development programs.

Every day, more foreign companies file U.S. patents for green and sustainable technology innovations. We must innovate if we wish to thrive. The answer to helping these entrepreneurs thrive is synchronous innovation networks (SIN), which are regional centers of excellence funded by a combination of public and private resources.

Forward-thinking economic development professionals in state and local governments, along with the private companies most likely to benefit from the centers' innovations, must work together to create these networks in the United States.

Operating as true public-private partnerships, these economic development organizations, as gatekeepers of federal and local dollars, and corporate entities with sustainable programs and real-world budgets, can foster innovation and support entrepreneurs.

Industry and government leaders can help establish SIN centers structured around a particular technology, a regional cluster strategy, or even to promote "economic gardening." Here, entrepreneurs can focus on developing new technologies for alternative energy, smart grid, railcar technology, GPS, and other systems.

In addition to the innovators themselves, SIN centers bring together patent attorneys, community colleges, and even complementary technologies. The unifying theme is fostering innovation within the confines of the current market and creating long-term value.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

SIN centers could be housed in communities' underutilized assets, such as abandoned industrial buildings in outlying areas, or sited in the next ring of less-than-dynamic municipal centers. It would be essential, however, to locate the centers close to multiple transportation modes.

Smaller communities are well-suited as homes to SIN centers if they have the infrastructure to support them. So are communities that have larger business parks with a sound industrial base. Proximity to thriving businesses benefits SIN centers because the companies may be willing to help fund and foster innovation through pilot programs and demonstration projects.

To attract investment from both public and private sources, SIN centers would be required to incorporate innovative green and sustainable ideas.

MAKING A START

Support at the statewide and regional levels helps entrepreneurs connect to federal money to support innovation. Initiatives in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act geared to supporting facilities for smart batteries is a start.

Bringing together multiple entities in synch with a cluster of buildings and like-minded research goals can achieve even more amplified results and provide a fast start to a development program geared toward innovation.

If we are to weather the next economic downturn, and build models to sustain us in the next business cycle, we must at this defining moment find, fund, and embrace SIN.