Needed: Urban Innovation Hot Spots
Cities should become living innovation labs, says Saul Kaplan. Only then will we come up with bold system changes that work
By Saul Kaplan
I have been asked by Living Cities, a philanthropic collaborative of foundations and financial institutions, to participate in an upcoming economic development roundtable, Changing the Trajectory of an Urban Economy, taking place in Detroit on Mar. 5. Organizers asked each of the participants, public and private-sector leaders from across the country, to provide an answer to the following question:
Given your experience, what are the most “game-changing” ways to use $100 million-plus to change the trajectory of an urban economy?
In other words, if I were given a free hand to use $100 million-plus of grants, what would I do? Here is my answer. I suggest that we turn cities into innovation hot spots.
We are playing defense based on old industrial economy rules and systems. We must play offense to create a 21st century innovation economy in which all citizens can fully participate. A new national economic development conversation should bubble up from cities.
Cities should be living labs. If cities become innovation hot spots, new investment and jobs will be created. We need ongoing R&D for new transformative models and systems. Developing a 21st century innovation economy depends on it and would also enable solutions for the big system challenges we face, such as health care, education, workforce development, and energy sustainability. These are system challenges that will not be fixed with incremental tweaks. We must design, demonstrate, and deploy new system approaches to these challenges. And the solutions should be coming from our cities.