Part III: “Future-Proofing” America’s Advanced Industries: It All Starts at the Local/Regional Level
Over the past several weeks, we’ve provided our thoughts on the Brookings Institution’s latest report that analyzes the state of America’s advanced industries, covering everything from the impact of this vital sector in driving sustained economic growth in the U.S., to the importance of a robust STEM careers pipeline restoring broadly shared opportunity for the middle class.
In our final installment in this series, we’ll focus on the report’s “call to action” for leaders in the private and public sectors, particularly at the local and regional levels, to work together in new and innovative ways to help drive global competitiveness. We’re happy to report that such initiatives are well underway right here in Fremont, like the transformation of Warm Springs into a world-class innovation ecosystem anchored in advanced manufacturing.
The top-level strategies for future success fall into three buckets: Commitment to Innovation, Recharging the Skills Pipeline, and Embracing the Ecosystem. Since our last piece focused on STEM education, we will take a closer look at both Innovation and the Ecosystem as defining features of the 21st Century workplace.
If innovation is what distinguishes U.S. firms, then it is incumbent on both the private and public sectors to “radically rethink their technology development strategies,” especially in the age of disruption. Specific suggestions include:
- Harness New Digital Formats (i.e., cloud computing, the “Internet of things,” and deep analytics) to better understand markets, suppliers, and consumers
- Become Nimble Collaborators, especially related to software and IT applications
- Ensure “Patient Capital” that respects the considerable time needed to bring innovative products to large-scale production
- Ensure Nationally and Globally Connected Infrastructure Networks for the swift movement of people, goods, services, water and energy with special attention to local “pinch points” that could impede flows along the nation’s road, rail, air, port, pipeline, and grid system
- Collaborate on Strategies to Advance Regional Industry Clusters, including cluster assessments, optimization of tax environments to encourage investment, and partnerships to promote exports and foreign investment outreach.
In Fremont, we couldn’t be more proud of companies like Seagate, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and Tesla who have made significant investments in their R&D operations to bolster their technology equipment portfolios. Their combined dollar investment totals in the hundreds of millions and suggests corporate competitiveness that must be reflected locally. Tesla also happens to be leading the way in open innovation models.
Furthermore, our Economic Development program has been steadily moving away from chasing new tenants, to working with our young, innovative companies such as cleantech stand-outs Enovix and SunPower. We’ve also nurtured partners like CalCEF, who are focused on technology transfer with our local National Labs.
And we can’t talk about innovation without connecting to ecosystems, because “innovation and skills development do not happen just anywhere.” The clustering effect is well-documented and allows for “knowledge flows, and access to skilled workers and regional supplier networks.” Brookings notes that decades of offshoring have contributed to disinvestment, and industry clusters are in desperate need of shoring up. Ecosystem strategies include:
- Encourage Advanced Firms to Consider Local Ecosystems in Decision-making and ultimately contribute to addressing any weaknesses
- Convene Public-Private Partnerships to Enhance Industry Ecosystems
- Meet the Varied and Changing Spatial Requirements of Advanced Industry Production ranging from “exurban mega-sites” to “modern urban collaboration spaces”
In Fremont we aren’t shy about touting our local advanced manufacturing ecosystem as one of our best incentives, and increasingly, we are finding that industry firms understand the value this brings to their businesses. We have blogged extensively about the many exciting regional partnerships that are enhancing this sector, from the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Roundtable to REDI — a Regional Economic Development Initiative sponsored by the Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce. We are particularly excited about Fremont’s Warm Springs Innovation District which is centered on the varied needs of Advanced Industries whether it’s the 5 million-square-foot Tesla Factory or the Workspace Fremont co-working facility.
Brookings concludes their report by emphasizing the need for cross-sector collaboration to strengthen the vitality of Advanced Industries through “innovation, technical skills, and dense ecosystems”. If we do collaborate, the result will be a game-changer, not only for the nation, but also for our local communities whose future depends on our collective success.