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Support Economic Innovation

Whether it's an astounding breakthrough or a subtle shift in efficiency, innovation keeps our region prosperous and competitive in a worldwide economy.

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Economic innovation — the process by which ideas become new goods and services — saves us money and time, enhances our quality of life, and improves our health and life expectancy. Businesses that excel at turning ideas into new technologies and processes gain a competitive advantage that translates into better jobs for our region's residents.

Our research laboratories, technology parks, universities, and advanced manufacturing firms are assets that create high-paying jobs that attract and retain the human capital our region needs to compete with other global centers of commerce. While we have the world-class research institutions, diverse industry mix, and strong civic organizations and foundations needed to support innovation, our region has not been keeping up with other metro areas' pace of commercializing technology — a trend that must be reversed to ensure future prosperity.

The public sector must support individuals and private institutions that can spur innovation, especially by connecting our researchers with entrepreneurs. Government can also improve the data systems needed to measure innovation, which will help guide decisions about infrastructure and other public investments to more effectively promote innovation.

By strategically encouraging "industry clusters" — among them biomedical / biotechnical, advanced materials, and transportation / logistics, as well as emerging clusters like green energy and technology — we can reduce duplication of workforce training and other efforts. And by supporting the experimentation and creativity necessary to produce commercial breakthroughs in these industries, we will create a culture that encourages innovation in our region.

Improve Data and Information Systems
The region should pursue better systems for collecting, tracking, and analyzing important measures of innovation. This includes outcome indicators such as number of businesses and jobs in key sectors, in addition to the success of past and current programs and financial incentives, which should make public sector investment decisions more efficient.

Nurture Regional Industry Clusters
Strategically organizing the region around its existing and emerging clusters of regional specialization can help target investment decisions (such as training and infrastructure) and reduce duplication of effort. Forming regional coalitions that focus research and initiatives around clusters will help these industries grow and prosper to compete better nationally and internationally.

Industry clusters consist of specialized yet interdependent firms that rely on similar labor pools, institutions, technologies, and infrastructure. Click on the image below for a more-detailed view.

Industry clusters consist of specialized yet interdependent firms that rely on similar labor pools, institutions, technologies, and infrastructure. Click on the image to view this chart in detail.
 

Create a Culture of Innovation
To become a leader in innovation, our region needs to cultivate attitudes that support the experimentation and creativity necessary to produce commercial innovations. Publicizing innovative success stories would encourage the region to value experimentation. The State of Illinois and local governments should identify and reform regulations or ordinances that might be creating barriers to innovation.

Increase Research Commercialization
Linking diverse groups, fostering awareness about local research, providing better training for researchers and entrepreneurs, and targeting public sector investment will help turn research into marketable products. Increasing venture capital investment in the region will enable entrepreneurs and start-up firms to locate and thrive here. 

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