Brookings Suggests Congress Invest in Regional Tech “Growth Centers”

This view of Silicon Valley is from Mission Peak Regional Preserve in Fremont, Calif. (Photo: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH. Shutterstock)

Scholars at the Brookings Institution are suggesting that Congress invest in a $100 billion package to support 10 potential technology growth centers and foster innovation outside of traditional tech hubs like Silicon Valley.

At a Jan. 29 event, members of the think tank and outside experts explained that the technology sector of the U.S. economy grows in a geographically uneven way. To spread the benefits of the tech boom, Congress should establish a competition to decide which metropolitan areas will receive financial and regulatory support to boost local innovation industries, a Brookings report argues.

“The innovation game, which resides at the center of the economic game, has taken on a very pronounced set of winner-take-most dynamics, where the very strongest gets stronger, and almost everywhere else really has to struggle,” Mark Muro, author of the report and policy director of the Metropolitan Policy Program, asserted.

According to the Brookings report, the five top innovation metro areas in the country accounted for more than 90 percent of innovation-sector growth between 2005 and 2017. Further, Muro and the others author of the report, Robert Atkinson and Jacob Whiton, wrote that spreading tech growth across the country will stop innovation jobs from going offshore and boost U.S. economic competitiveness.

“Everybody in Silicon Valley is from someplace else. It’s not that that’s this magical kind of cauldron of creativity,” Steve Case, former America Online (AOL) CEO, said. “It’s the people who were creative and had a desire to be part of the innovation economy move there. And so how do you create more of that opportunity and more places so they can stay where they are or even return to where they’re from?”

Brookings is asking Congress to provide eight to 10 metro areas with a decade of support to help them become self-sufficient innovation centers. The package would include up to $700 million each year for each location for direct research and development funding, antitrust exemption to foster collaboration, and other substantial benefits.

“America’s successful tech hubs haven’t emerged by accident – most are products of deliberate policy choices and federal government support,” Atkinson, president of the IT and Innovation Foundation, said. “A strong federal effort focused on helping some metros transition into self-sustaining tech hubs can help more Americans benefit from the significant opportunities enabled by high-tech industry growth.”

Katie Malone
About Katie Malone
Katie Malone is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.

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