Everywhere I look, a new tech cluster

Via Rob Hyndman, news of a massive public-private funded project to develop a tech cluster in upstate New York:

Nytechcluster

Rob attended the recent meeting with ICT Toronto and registers his skepticism:

I’m a sceptic – I’m dubious that government can achieve anything of the sort – and my scepticism deepened considerably when I learned recently that the program has effectively no budget. Be that as it may, it’s a noble goal, and you can’t help but wish such well-meaning efforts well…

Again, I’m dubious, and the article quickly summarizes some of the reasons why scepticism may well be due, but in any event – $1 billion!! I’m not sure which effort I admire more – the ICT shoestring effort or the New York state deep pockets effort.

I think that skepticism and scrutiny of government mega-projects is warranted. I am much more interested in the possibilities of community-based approaches and place-based strategies to cluster development, approaches that are based in the authenticity of a place and its people. From that NY Times piece:

But nurturing high-technology hubs, development experts say, is tricky, and simply making big investments in factories and labs is no guarantee of success.

The real goal, they add, is to build gradually a network of people and companies with technical, design, financial and entrepreneurial expertise — one that pursues a whole range of high-tech opportunities instead of being dependent on a particular product, factory or industry niche.

As for the $1 billion in subsidies from the State of New York, I would point Rob and others to the various programs of Ontario’s Ministry of Research and Innovation, Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, Ministry of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Industry Canada programs, SRED, OITC, etc and total up the amount of dollars being invested in Ontario’s tech clusters through public and private investments in places like MaRS, the Institute for Quantum Computing, the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, the Ontario Science Centre’s Weston Family Innovation Centre, the new McEwan Centre for Regenerative Medicine (aka “stem cell research“) and the list of public and public-private tech cluster initiatives goes on and on. Clearly somebody thinks that cluster development strategies are worth pursuing and investing in.
ICT Toronto is just one such initiative at the city level for one sector, but is part of a bigger constellation of public-private initiatives in the global battle for tech supremacy. ICT Toronto needs to recognize its place and define its role in that larger battle and to also recognize the scale of global competition.

What is going on in Ontario is a big and complex story to tell, and the NY Times hasn’t covered it. Then again, has the Globe and Mail?

More to come on this topic…

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