Research. findings present both good and bad news
The first-ever report measuring levels of innovation and key economic activity in the central San Joaquin Valley (Fresno, Madera, Tulare and Kings Counties) were released by California State University, Fresno today (April 21).
The report, “The Innovation Economy Agenda: Setting Priorities and Assessing Progress in the Central San Joaquin Valley Region,” was produced by the university-based Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Office of Community and Economic Development, in conjunction with Boston-area research partner Advanced Research Technologies.
Known as the Innovation Index, the report outlines a checklist of 10 ingredients required for a region to be successful in the knowledge-based innovation economy. The checklist includes the education and skill level of the workforce, accessibility to investment capital, research and development capacity, patent registrations on new technology, new business starts and a diverse mix of industry clusters.
The Innovation Index is a critical tool for local business and economic development leaders.
If we’re going to compete in the innovation economy, we have to invest in knowledge-based assets like the skills of our local workforce, R&D capacity and risk capital. This report gives us benchmark data on how we’re doing in those important areas,” said Dr. Tim Stearns, director of the Lyles Center.
“The Innovation Index should spark a discussion about the future direction of the region,” Stearns said.
The research findings present a mix of good and bad news for the region’s economy:
• Education and skill level of the workforce. The region is making significant progress on improvements in educational attainment, yet it trails the nation substantially in educating its residents.
• Investment capital. There was a steady stream of venture capital flowing into central San Joaquin Valley companies from 1997 to 2002, but overall levels of venture capital investment in the region remain low compared to state and national averages.
• Federal research and development funding. Over the past 10 years, the amount of federal R&D funding has doubled in the central San Joaquin Valley. However, that funding level still represents less than 1 percent of the state’s total funding.
• Accelerating business creation. The region generates more business start-ups than expected, given the area’s lower levels of investment capital and intellectual property.
• High-growth firms. The region has a large and growing number of “high growth” companies (i.e. firms growing at a rate of 15% a year or greater for five years). However, most of those firms tend to serve only the local population, meaning they miss out on the opportunity to sell their products and services to markets outside the region.
• Diverse and healthy industry cluster portfolio. The region is composed of a mix of industry clusters, all experiencing employment growth. Of the region’s 11 clusters, manufacturing, furniture/wood manufacturing and transportation/logistics are the fastest-growing.
Development of the Innovation Index is one of the 40 recommendations in the Regional Jobs Initiative’s five-year implementation plan.
“The RJI’s measurable goal is the creation of 30,000 net new jobs, but we don’t want the efforts of the RJI to be a flash-in-the pan,” said Ashley Swearengin, Fresno State’s economic development director and the chief staff person to the RJI. “We’re really trying to steer the region toward sustainable economic vitality. The Innovation Index shows us how we’re doing on long-term measures of success.”
The Innovation Index also highlights the importance of universities in innovation-driven economic development.
“The future of the university and the San Joaquin Valley are inextricably tied,” said Fresno State President Dr. John D. Welty. “Fresno State will reach its full potential if the San Joaquin Valley is a vibrant, dynamic place and vice versa.”
“The Innovation Index is a good reminder that we must continually engage with the community and make university resources available to improve the economy,” said Welty.
To view the full report, please go to the following Web site: www.lylescenter.com.
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