To advance its innovation-based economic development model, the Council on Competitiveness launched the Regional Innovation Initiative (RII). The RII has adopted three “C’s” – Create, Communicate and Catalyze – to guide its efforts. The regional effort is creating new knowledge through applied research in U.S. regions; communicating this new model to political, corporate, university, and labor leaders; and catalyzing action by assisting regions to implement economic and workforce development strategies.
Through leading-edge research and its unique network of national leaders, the Council has become a respected thought leader on innovation-based economic development. The foundational regional innovation project, the Clusters of Innovation Initiative, and collaborative efforts with the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) have spurred federal, state and local governments to enact pro-innovation policies and inspired private-sector leaders to implement innovation-based economic development strategies. Recent work with the U.S. Employment and Training Administration (ETA) has been central to the improved integration of the public workforce system with regional economic development priorities.
The RII is the focal point of Council efforts to expand its core messages regionally and reach more leaders in the private, public, university, labor and non-profit sectors. The objectives include:
- Improving awareness among federal, state and local stakeholders of the conditions necessary to promote innovation
- Catalyzing consensus on national policy to support regional economic and workforce development
- Providing tools and techniques that allow states and regions to inventory, evaluate and benchmark their innovation capacity
- Supporting the development of regional leaders and regional leadership efforts
- Accelerating implementation of regional economic development initiatives
Regional Leadership Initiative
In 2008, the Council is launching a new initiative to promote and strengthen regional leadership in the United States. The 21st Century Regional Leadership Initiative will create strategies, best practices, and tools for developing leaders and collaborative leadership structures that enable regions to compete effectively in the global marketplace. The project will begin with a research effort into the origins of regional leadership and the structures that support it. The work will also identify the skill sets required of individual leaders and the tools available to those striving to turn their regions into innovation hotspots. Ultimately, the Council envisions the development of a new National Center on Regional Competitiveness and Leadership.
Building on past work in developing the initial concept, the Council has been selected as a lead partner for the U.S. Department of Labor’s breakthrough initiative, Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED). The department has awarded more than $300 million in WIRED grants to 39 regional sites around the country, where universities, companies, government, workforce and economic development organizations have partnered to transform their regional economies. The WIRED program embraces the Council’s focus on innovation as the key to regional development and is fostering the much needed integration of regional workforce and economic development programs.
To support the WIRED program, the RII developed Illuminate. Asset Mapping Roadmap: A Guide to Assessing Regional Development Resources. Since 2005, the Council has offered guidance and/or training to approximately 20 WIRED regions across the country. The RII gathers promising practices from its work in the WIRED regions to create a quarterly newsletter called The Learning Exchange. Most recently, the Council published a key issue guide for regions entitled Cooperate. A Practitioner’s Guide for Effective Alignment of Regional Development and Higher Education.
In 2007, RII played a lead role in the Council’s partnership with the National Governors Association (NGA) and Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano on her 2007 chair’s initiative, Innovation America. Council staff co-edited a joint NGA-Council publication, The Governor’s Guide to Cluster-Based Strategies for Growing State Economies.
Regional Competitiveness Initiative
RII’s first major initiative was a partnership with the EDA to strengthen regional capacity for innovation and economic growth. Six regions participated in this initiative: Central New Mexico; Northeast Ohio; Wilmington, DE; West Michigan; the Inland Northwest; and St. Louis, MO. Based on our work in these regions and in Rochester, NY, the Council produced two reports: Measuring Regional Innovation and Regional Innovation National Prosperity that provide guidance to regions developing growth strategies.