Innovation in Real Places: Strategies for Prosperity in an Unforgiving World | Dan Breznitz
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A challenge to prevailing ideas about innovation and a guide to identifying the best growth strategy for your community.
Across the world, cities and regions have wasted trillions of dollars on blindly copying the Silicon Valley model of growth creation. Since the early years of the information age, we've been told that economic growth derives from harnessing technological innovation. To do this, places must create
good education systems, partner with local research universities, and attract innovative hi-tech firms. We have lived with this system for decades, and the result is clear: a small number of regions and cities at the top of the high-tech industry but many more fighting a losing battle to retain
But are there other models that don't rely on a flourishing high-tech industry? In Innovation in Real Places, Dan Breznitz argues that there are. The purveyors of the dominant ideas on innovation have a feeble understanding of the big picture on global production and innovation. They conflate
innovation with invention and suffer from techno-fetishism. In their devotion to start-ups, they refuse to admit that the real obstacle to growth for most cities is the overwhelming power of the real hubs, which siphon up vast amounts of talent and money. Communities waste time, money, and energy
pursuing this road to nowhere. Breznitz proposes that communities instead focus on where they fit in the four stages in the global production process. Some are at the highest end, and that is where the Clevelands, Sheffields, and Baltimores are being pushed toward. But that is bad advice. Success
lies in understanding the changed structure of the global system of production and then using those insights to enable communities to recognize their own advantages, which in turn allows to them to foster surprising forms of specialized innovation. As he stresses, all localities have certain
advantages relative to at least one stage of the global production process, and the trick is in recognizing it. Leaders might think the answer lies in high-tech or high-end manufacturing, but more often than not, they're wrong. Innovation in Real Places is an essential corrective to a mythology of
innovation and growth that too many places have bought into in recent years. Best of all, it has the potential to prod local leaders into pursuing realistic and regionally appropriate models for growth and innovation.
"Want to be an innovation hot spot? Don't copy Silicon Valley... we should remember what innovation is and why we care about it. The first part comes down to realising that innovation is not invention." -- John Morgan, The Times Higher Education
"The abiding message of Breznitz's book is that it is a mistake to assume that "what works in one time and one place will always work across time and space... a defense of experiments, mistakes, and the right to choose." -- William H. Jeneway, Project Syndicate
"In this fascinating book, Breznitz, a professor at the Munk School at the University of Toronto, argues that innovation is 'the only way to ensure sustained long-term economic and human-welfare growth'. But, crucially, 'innovation is not invention, nor is it high-tech and the creation of new
technology and gadgets". It is "the complete process of taking new ideas and devising new or improved products and services.' This Catholicism gives fascinating insights." -- Martin Wolf, Financial Times
"This book provides valuable guidance for all governmental or business leaders who are trying to find sustainable solutions in the midst of turbulent circumstances. Technology provides enormous opportunities, but these will be realized only through excellent leadership and management." -- Aho Esko,
former Prime Minister of Finland
"Writing a book with advice to local leaders on how to create innovative ecosystems, which are resistant to the centrifugal forces of globalization, was a brilliant idea. This book proves that a precisely structured narrative can be a powerful tool to communicate the results of excellent academic
research." -- Marek Belka, former Prime Minister of Poland; Head of the Central Bank of Poland
"A must-read book for researchers, mayors, economic developers and all those concerned with building more innovative and inclusive places. Breznitz combines cutting-edge research on innovative clusters and ecosystems, with laser-like focus on what works and what does not. His book provides a
much-needed reminder that Silicon Valley is the wrong model: Cities across the world must forged their own unique paths and strategies for innovation and prosperity." -- Richard Florida, author of Rise of the Creative Class
"Breznitz's brilliant research on innovation and growth strategies coupled with a meticulous focus on explaining what does is means in practical terms for local leaders, makes is a must read for anyone who cares about their community. A truly important book and a highly enjoyable read." -- Thierry
Mandon, Former Minister of Public Accounts and State Reform and Minister of Higher Education and Research, France
"In writing this highly engaging and accessible book, Breznitz has done an important public service. Readers interested in the future of innovation and prosperity will avail themselves of not only the most cutting-edge research, but also understand how it applies to their own community. Breznitz's
provocative arguments against the Silicon Valley model and the Venture Capital Industry caused me to nod my head in agreement as the former Chief Scientist of Israel and wince in pain as an active Venture Capitalist at the same time. This's a tour de force and a must read for policy makers and
concerned, but hopeful, citizens." -- Avi Hasson, former Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Economy of the State of Israel
"Finally, a book which is not only a masterful piece of research but is also extremely useful for policy makers. This very well written and superbly research book is a much-needed eye opener for the multiple opportunities that exist in our globalized world." -- Victor Sánchez Urrutia, National
Secretariat for Science, Technology and Innovation, Panama
About the Author
Dan Breznitz is a Professor and Munk Chair of Innovation Studies in the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy with a cross-appointment in the Department of Political Science of the University of Toronto, where he is also the Co-Director of the Innovation Policy Lab. He is a Fellow of the
Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, where he co-founded and co-directs the program on Innovation, Equity and the Future of Prosperity. His award-winning books include Innovation and the State, The Run of the Red Queen, and The Third Globalization.
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