The Future of Innovation Ecosystems

This is an early version of a post that I’m developing, shared now to make it convenient to share the links. I’ll be adding more analysis of the various plans in the future and update the resources. I would appreciate comments and suggestions for additional content.

The last couple years have seen an evolution and maturing of innovation ecosystem awareness and startup community activity. Early ad hoc efforts have transitioned to support an economic sector generating broader public polity interest and practitioner training. This community movement outside of traditional startup communities such as Boulder, San Jose, and Boston, has roots in the Rise of the Rest work lead by AOL cofounder Steve Case and the Startup Champions; and the work of the Kauffman Foundation that has moved to formalize public policy initiatives and the career field of startup community organizers. I’ve started to capture some of these groups and their policy documents below for reference and to guide policy makers and legislatures who are learning about the work.

This work builds on my previous interests in the integration of the investors and a startup community that I called the “Fargo Strategy and developed further with my work in Serbia along with the development of a strategy to purposely connect core community events in a figurative and literal “Year of Innovation” and an integrated “innovation stack”. In the future I’m hoping to offer some additional analysis of the newer plans listed below and justification for my thesis that there is a new generation of innovation ecosystem coming that will build on this current work with more integration between existing market economy, the startup community, and the civic economy. Hawaii is an example of an early pathfinder that saw the potential in refocusing innovation as an “economic sector”. Their adoption of the sector perspective was one of the cornerstones in my learning about innovation as an economic strategy. The illustration below shows a view of how the startup community or “emerging businesses” in the traditional startup community and innovation ecosystem model has offered a weak tie to the existing civic and market economies.

The following illustration suggests the future of community innovation ecosystems driven by benefits of closer connections between the emerging businesses and the existing civic and market economies. Newer works such as Brad Felds’ Startup Community Way book, listed below, that is an update on his earlier work are starting to capture this new model. In this emerging model, typical early stage activities include Community Sprints and sponsored Community Challenges that engage and connect a community around problems that matter and “impact innovation” work. I’m currently researching the field of “innovation economics” for more information to help justify why this is not just a good idea, but that it makes practical and economic sense to accelerate the next generation of innovation economy.

Current work leading the way in formalizing innovation and entrepreneurship public policy

The following are an interesting trend in formalizing political and public policies for innovation and entrepreneurship. In part think of them as a move to expand economic development beyond the traditional focus on business retention, attracting business to relocate and support for workforce development and higher education. The new trend seeks to create more businesses rather than keep or important business growth. What I believe is still missing is clearer view of how to justify the public or civic investment in this work and how to strengthen the connection between the startup community and existing civic and business activities with the goal to achieve even greater economic growth and community opportunity.

Brookings Institute – Localizing the economic impact of research and development Fifty policy proposals for the Trump administration and Congress

Council on Competitiveness created the National Commission on Innovation and Competitiveness Frontiers (NCICF). The commission recently published its call-to-action and lays out its roadmap to policymakers towards innovation, leadership, growth, and inclusivity. The Council’s report, Competing in the Next Economy, challenges policymakers to adapt the U.S. innovation ecosystem to the changing nature of innovation. It notes that other nations have begun replicating the structural advantages that have made the U.S. the center of global innovation, new research and business models are emerging and disrupting traditional technologies, and not every American has seen the benefits of American innovation. To respond to these conditions, the report calls for a new age of innovation that aligns local, state and national governments with the private sector.

Right to Start is a campaign to rebuild the American economy by putting entrepreneurs first. We do that by changing minds, policies, and communities. We seek to build a national civic infrastructure for the new economy that unleashes entrepreneurial opportunity for all of us.

Center for American Entrepreneurship CAE is a nonpartisan Washington, DC-based research, policy, and advocacy organization that works with policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels across the country to build a policy environment that promotes new business formation, survival, and growth.

The Start Us Up Coalition supported by the Kauffman Foundation, this group offers America’s New Business Plan – “A bipartisan plan for policymakers that is focused on creating new jobs and leveling the playing field for startups and small businesses.” One of the areas of focus is recognizing that healthcare access for startups is a barrier and they are advocating for portable healthcare solutions.

Institute for JusticeEconomic Liberty Project – Economic liberty—the right to earn a living in the occupation of your choice without unnecessary government interference—is at the heart of the American Dream. Unfortunately, all too many entrepreneurs find that this dream is under constant attack by unreasonable licensing, permitting and other requirements that stand in the way of honest competition.

Elemental Accelerator Policy Lab – And Fellows Program – “…We are living through an extraordinary moment of interconnected urgency. Acknowledging this, the Biden-Harris Administration is focused on addressing four related crises: the pandemic, the economy, the climate crisis, and structural racism. On Earth Day 2021, America committed to picking up the pace. These crises are converging because they are all related. Issues of environmental protection, equity, human health, inclusive governance and prosperity are inextricably interlinked. The crises we now face derive from a set of intersectional preconditions (racism, structural inequality, an extractive economy), and they require integrated, cross-sectoral solutions. Our approach to achieving a climate-safe future must reflect this reality. Addressing climate change in a way that gets to the root of these interconnected crises will require not only technological innovation, but also innovation and entrepreneurship to reenvision and reshape everything we do – including and especially policy. That’s why we created the Elemental Policy Lab…”

Articles and Reports

Forbes –

Alaska UAA Center for Economic Development Reports and specifically, the “State of Entrepreneurship” report that all of the AK ecosystem builders should read, including the statement:

“Over the last decade, startups
in Alaska consistently added
4,000 to 6,000 jobs to the
economy each year. Firms
that are aged five years or
younger accounted for 89%
of Alaska’s net employment
growth in the private sector.”
UAA/CED State of Entrepreneurship 2018

Content to be added in the future:

Startup Community Way by Brad Feld
Startup Communities by Brad Feld
The Startup Way by Eric Ries
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Community/Civic Funding Programs that engage with the community and that would help with this new model of innovation ecosystem:
Icorps –
SBIR “America’s Seed Fund” –

Economic Development Policy
Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) and integration of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Community Organizers

Startup Champions Network is a national network of startup community activists.

Build A Mountain
Kauffman Foundation –


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.