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April 14, 2008

David :Entrepreneurship, Creative Class Strategies

Solar Powered Medical Equipment from Dayton's Creative Class

In early March, under the leadership of SOCHE, Richard, Steven, Lou, Rana, and I worked with 32 catalysts in Dayton, Ohio. The energy of the people, the strength of the art community, the leading universities, and the culture of innovation (from the Wright Brothers to Wright-Patterson) made for an exciting couple of days.

I recently came across a great example of the Dayton's creative assets in action. This article from the University of Dayton highlights the winner of their recent business plan competition.

From the piece:

Salud del Sol, an innovative new business from a team of University of Dayton students aimed at bringing the 'health of the sun' to medical treatment in developing countries, took home the $10,000 first prize to help get the venture off the ground.

Winning the 2008 University of Dayton Business Plan Competition, the team of Lauren Dokes, Lori Hanna, Daniel Hensel and Anna Young created a business plan to develop and market solar cookers and solar-powered sterilizers.

Salud del Sol tapped other expertise at the University including engineering, international development and social entrepreneurship, according to project member Lori Hanna, a mechanical engineering major. The project – the basis of her senior honors thesis – grew from an internship in rural Nicaragua through UD 's Engineers in Technical Humanitarian Opportunities of Service-learning (ETHOS) program.

"Nurses have to travel to bigger health centers or hospitals to use sterilizers, sometimes traveling long distances by bus and spending precious time and money to have access to the equipment," she said.

This type of social entrepreneurship is becoming more and more of a calling card/career choice of members of the creative class and places that offer combinable creative assets -- including universities, mega region/international linkages, entrepreneurial institutions, and scientific talent -- will see sustainable growth and improvements in quality of place.

August 22, 2007

In addition to seeing hybrids all over the place, I see a lot of Zipcars and Flexcars in metro areas. (To be honest, it bothers me that they get reserved spots with no meters in many towns, but I digress.) This new model of car ownership/use, the sharing model, seems to be taking off and many innovative organizations are getting on board.

Equity Residential Properties, a huge publicly traded apartment building operator, recently inked a deal with Zipcar to provide cars and spaces at some of its properties. Today's WSJ (sub req'd) features an article by Darren Everson highlighting how Zipcar is 'driving' into the college market by inking deals with Universities to put cars in and around campuses.

Perhaps Detroit's long suffering car makers should think about this new model of ownership in trying to revive US sales/revenues? With many of the user's of car share services in college and just starting their careers, this seems like a growing consumption trend that Detroit would want to take advantage of?

posted by David

July 30, 2007

Richard has written extensively on the role of the University in the Creative Economy... (check out the library for pieces by Richard including The University and The Creative Economy by Richard, Gary, Kevin, and Brian). His work has informed my work on the benefits of starting new ventures on campuses.

A recent story in the WSJ by Thaddeus Herrick (available w/out a sub via AOL) shows that corporations are beginning to try new strategies in leveraging the benefits of the university in the creative economy. Express Scripts, Inc., a company that does $18 billion in pharmacy benefits management, is relocating its HQ to the University of Missouri's St. Louis Campus. From the piece,

Continue reading "Big Corporation on Campus" »

June 28, 2007

The State Science and Technology Institute has summarized information from the National Science Foundation's Science and Engineering Indicators Project on graduation levels in science and technology by state.


Every year, the National Science Foundation releases Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in S&E, a report filled with detailed statistics about the characteristics of science and engineering graduates enrolled at U.S. institutions. Using the annual report, SSTI has prepared a table showing the total number of graduate students for each year from 2001 to 2005 in each state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Additionally, each state is ranked by the percent change in science and engineering graduate enrollment from 2001 to 2005.  For the U.S. as a whole, the country's science and engineering graduate population increased by 11.5 percent over the five years. Among states, Minnesota experienced the largest increase at 61.8 percent, rising from 6,602 students in 2001 to 10,685 in 2005. North Dakota, Alaska, Idaho and Hawaii rounded out the states with the largest percent increase, all over 30 percent.

Of the states with a total S&E graduate student population over 10,000 in 2001, Ohio, Florida, California and North Carolina experienced increases over 15 percent. The average growth rate among the entities was 13.6 percent. Louisiana experienced the largest drop of S&E graduate enrollment during the five-year period, shrinking by 16.2 percent. Illinois, Michigan, and South Dakota were the only other states to witness a decrease in enrollment from 2001 to 2005. To see how each state ranks, visit SSTI's table at:


Reports dating back to 1994 from the Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in S&E series are available at:


Not included is information on number of Science and Engineering (S&E) graduates per capita (2005 numbers and populations).  Top honors go to the District of Columbia with 16.8 S&E for every 1,000 residents.  Rounding out the top 10:

StateS&E per 1,000 residents
District of Columbia16.8
North Dakota2.48
New York2.27

Bottom honors(?) go to Maine with 0.53 S&E graduates per 1,000 residents

Of course, as we and others find time and time again, simply having them graduate from a college in your state doesn't mean they will stay put. College graduates are the most mobile group.

posted by Kevin Stolarick

June 08, 2007

Great video of Google's VP for People Operations Laszlo Bock -- a Romanian immigrant -- testifying on Capitol Hill regarding the practical benefits of immigration to Google and the US. It is a great testimony and confirms much of what we know on immigration and talent. People need to see this.

posted by David

January 04, 2007

Richard Florida

$32 million question

It's only half of the proverbial $64 million, I know, but I was flabergasted to learn that's how much the University of Alabama paid to lure football coach Nick Saban from the Miami Dolphins to become their new coach. Economists have a very useful concept they use to consider "investments" like this. It's called an "opportunity costs" - which basically means what the money could be otherwise used for.  In this case,  $32 million could be used to endow 10 or 20 professorships in perpetuity, essentially creating a whole new department or research institute forever.

Over at Free Exchange Isaac Bickerstaff poses a good question:

"...why are America's institutions of higher learning also operating semi-professional sports franchises?  Especially since overall, the athletics department is a money-losing proposition for most schools.  They also bring down the value of the university's core "product", as schools offer places and often lavish scholarships to academically unqualified student athletes."

To which Tyler Cowen adds:

The evidence is mixed, but some papers find a connection between athletic achievement and student quality, or athletic achievement and alumni donations.  I suspect the donor connection is the key, but we also must ask what exactly colleges and universities seek to maximize. 

Under one view, there is some local market power, a surplus from tuition and endowments, fairly passive boards, and a faculty-driven governance structure which gives Presidents considerable discretion over non-instructional projects.  If I were a University President, I would spend money on the library, a very good music school, a concert hall, and -- if they would abolish the NCAA and the zone defense -- a basketball team.  Basketball is The Queen of Sports, and what better way to entertain local bigwigs and receive favors in return?

Your thoughts?

Continue reading "$32 million question" »

November 29, 2006

Dean Schmalensee's Business Week article has touched off a lively debate among scholars associated with the Sloan Foundation's Industry Studies Program. While I basically agree, the crux of the problem, to my way of thinking, runs far, far deeper.

Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld, Dean of the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations University of Illinois, argues that "it is no accident that we now see increasing debate around business schools taking more of a  problem-centered, interdisciplinary focus.  We are in what Mike Piore  and Chuck Sabel first called "the second industrial divide" -- a  period when key institutional arrangements are incompletely matched to markets, technology, and demographics."

I could not agree more. And I would add that just when we need scholars and the academy to generate the large scale ideas and public debate to facilitate and accelerate this "matching" of institutional arrangements to economic, technological and social trends, academe is focusing far too resources on these issues and problems.

These issues cross all manner of subjects and disciplines--from economics and business to urban affairs and geography, public policy and social, cultural and demographic factors. The workplace is being re-organized radically away from the old bureaucratic corporation Alfred Chandler wrote about. The relationship between workers and their managers and tasks is changing. What people expect at work is changing too. Work and production organization are being reshaped; design and creativity have entered the picture in a big way.  Production increasingly takes the form of globe straddling networks. Cities and communities are being reshaped, becoming more specialized economically, occupationally and demographically. We are in the midst of a great migration. Our culture is being radically reshaped. The family itself is being redefined: now more people are single than married, the rise of "urban tribes."  I could go on and on-- the list is endless.

One way I like to think about this is the decline of public intellectualism in our universities. Even up to the time Piore and Sabel wrote The Second Industrial Divide a good deal of conversation-setting analysis of social, cultural and economic trends was produced by engaged scholars and public intellectuals operating out of academe. In economics the names are well known; Galbraith, Friedman, Drucker and others;  in sociology people Dan Bell; in political science, Charles Lindbolm and many others.

Sure, there are still academics who are public intellectuals, doing serious research on important problems and writing in a style that engages people across the board. Jared Diamond is illuminating the relationship between nature and social behavior; Robert Putnam on civic engagement; Jeff Sachs on international development; Paul Krugman on macro-economics. But there could be, and should be, a lot more.

The shortage of public intellectuals, I believe, poses big costs for society. Stanford University's Paul Romer, one of our leading students of economic growth, paraphrasing Keynes a great public intellectual himself, always says that what really powers economic and social advance are meta-ideas. If academe is not producing enough public intellectuals: where will these meta-ideas come from?

The answer is simple: The vacuum is being filled by the rise of entrepreneurial journalists, the David Brooks and Tom Friedmans of the world. Great writers, able to pen compelling stories, but far less great on tracking large-scale social trends.  Virtually all of the serious non-fiction editors I know at big publishing houses have told me personally that they are seeing far fewer proposal from academics; that the proposals they do see are not nearly as compelling; and that their portfolios are shifting away from academics and toward journalists. Without the ability to track and parse long term trends (and dare I say data-sets), these journalistic public intellectuals that can provide compelling snapshots of the moment, but have far more difficulty shedding real light on the dramatic social and economic changes that face us. In fact, lacking these skills, they are likely to distort the picture and color the popular debate in ways that obscure important aspects of the problems facing society.

Why would this shift away from the university be taking place? The problems are big. And universities say they want more such people. So why aren't we producing more of the kinds of public intellectuals needed to produce these meta-ideas?

There are many, many reasons. Believe it or not, it's hard to fund meta-ideas.  Public funding organizations like the National Science Foundation focus the bulk of their resources on science and engineering, funding in the social and behavioral sciences tends to go toward smaller-scale, disciplinary problems in the social sciences. Large philanthropy has its hands full making practical impact, and finds it harder and harder to justify large grants for intellectual capital.  Universities tend to spread their own money around.

Another part of the problem is that being a public intellectual is difficult work. Getting an oped published in the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, I have come personally to understand, is hard slogging, harder at least for me than publishing in leading academic journals. Writing a compelling book for a trade publisher, that has a strong narrative argument that can appeal to relatively large numbers of people, is also more difficult, again for me, then writing research findings aimed at professional peers.   

This is made all the more difficult by a university environment which tends to look askance on public intellectualism. Despite what is said, there are sizable obstacles in front of academics who would like to do public intellectual work. Too many departments continue to suggest that public intellectual work is "journalistic," "shallow" or worse; direct graduate students away from them; or say it's more important to stay on campus and engage with peers and students than it is to travel to engage public audiences.

How to solve the problem?  Let me venture some ideas.  One possibility is that universities make better use of the division of labor in their use of personnel--some are better teachers; some better researchers; some better engagers. Why not adjust their workloads and expectations?

A Carnegie Commission report redefined what academics do as discovery, learning and engagement, as opposed to the traditional, research, teaching, and service. Why not give academics credit for "engaging" broader audiences? Why not "teaching credit" for educating beyond the university? Why not use distance learning and new educational technology to disseminate their ideas? The idea of making public intellectuals Deans and administrators is simply ludicrous; their value is in their ability to generate and focus energy around meta-ideas.

Still another is that we build new capacity around nimble institutes that engage across disciplines and  capacities around pressing problems. The model I have in mind here is the National Institutes of Health, which bring science to bear on diseases. This could enable some serious massing of resources around pressing social and economic issues. But these institutes need to provide real support for public intellectuals who are working on big problems and meta-ideas. The funds can't be used to promote business, or should I say research, as usual.

Most of all the universities have to commit to supporting public intellectuals, and by this I mean more than just paying their salaries. We need to actively leverage, not isolate, them and their activities. 

It also means building real programs around their real-world interests. Take my own area of regional and urban economic development. Most universities say this is an important problem area. Most say they are in fact active contributors to regional development through technology innovation, technology transfer, spinoff companies and what not. But how many have tried to build real academic programs in this area-- programs with real support, real financial backing and aimed to generate new knowledge. Many of the truly great universities lack any such programs. But what better laboratory to understand social, economic and cultural change, and the role of the university in it.

I'll end with a comment from Jane Jacobs, one of the leading public intellectuals of the 20th century. When I asked her why she never joined a university, despite many offers, she said simply: "How could I do work on interesting real-world problems there?"

I would love to know what you think about this, and what might be done?

This Business Week piece by MIT Sloan School Dean, Richard Schmalensee is very, very interesting:

"To our critics, including many successful  managers, business schools have become little more than exercises in ticket punching for would-be consultants, taught by faculty who are more interested in impressing their academic colleagues than in confronting real-world business problems. Although overstated, this caricature has a grain of truth. ...[M]anagement school faculty often focus on academic fields such as game theory or econometrics, not on management practice, and their work may have little to do with real business problems. ... Critics charge that such faculty (some who may not even know or care much about business) can teach business students little or nothing about how to actually manage--in other words, to accomplish things with and through other people. ...Unfortunately, under the current academic reward system, what matters most is having an impact among peers, mainly by getting specialized research published in influential journals. ... Even after faculty get lifetime tenure, if they veer from the traditional academic path, they will likely lose stature within the academy. Few have a strong enough ego not to care. At the core of management school criticism, then, is a fundamental mismatch: the academic system's current methods for hiring and rewarding professors don't necessarily attract or encourage the kind of practitioner-oriented faculty we need to make business-school research and MBA education much more attuned to meeting today's and tomorrow's management challenges.... Many are willing and anxious to solve this problem, but, like me, are not quite certain how to do so. ... [B]usiness schools' research agendas must become primarily driven by real-life management problems. But in order for this change to happen, problem-driven research must become recognized and honored as a great way to advance, not jeopardize, an academic career."

November 27, 2006

Download university_and_the_creative_economy.pdf

Here's a newly revised version of my paper in this subject with Kevin Stolarick, Gary Gates and Brian Knudsen.