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Notes from Innovation Policyworks
In December, the New York Times published an article about rural America that painted a bleak picture of declining populations, declining employment, increasing opioid addiction and death. The article suggested that the decline is inevitable and perhaps irreversible. "This is the inescapable reality of agglomeration, one of the most powerful forces shaping the American economy over the last three decades. Innovative companies choose to locate where other successful, innovative companies are," said the authors.
To paraphrase Mark Twain, I think the rumors of the death of rural economies are greatly exaggerated. It is undoubtedly true that some small communities are vanishing, having to close their schools due to lack of enrollment, and eventually losing their post offices, local governments and local businesses. And, I have met folks from across the country who are proud that they have fought off any development efforts from anyone with outside capital. 
On the other hand, all across this country, I've visited (and lived in) small towns from Maine to Indiana to Virginia to Colorado to New Mexico that are flourishing. Sometimes the ones that are flourishing are just miles away from those that aren't, providing a natural experiment to determine what makes a difference and what works. There are quite a few commonalities among the towns that are doing well. 
These include:
  • Access to high-speed broadband and reliable cell service
  • Place-making
  • Civic engagement
  • Entrepreneurial spirit
Read the whole blog here.
These strategies and more are covered in this piece about innovation and entrepreneurship-focused economic development. Read more in this complementary pdf detailing five strategies for economic development.


State Laws Obstruct Broadband in Rural America
Rural electric cooperatives in some states prohibited from supported access to broadband.

Access to high-speed broadband continues to be a huge obstacle to economic development in many rural areas across the US. Many local and regional governments are stepping in to create municipal or regional utility companies to offer broadband, usually because the private sector utility companies do not find it profitable to provide these services in sparsely populated areas. This trend has historical precedent - the rural electrification movement of the 1930s. And, electric cooperatives, a vestige of that era, would like to play a role in this trend as well, but in some states, they are prevented from doing so by state laws that some want changed. Rural electric cooperatives in states like Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina are restricted to providing only electricity, laws that are supported by existing telecommunications carriers. This has proven to be a huge impediment to allowing these states from using newly available USDA grant funds designed to expand broadband access in rural areas. Get the whole story HERE.

New Innovation Rankings
NJ and Milken release their latest innovation indicator reports.

The New Jersey Business and Industry Association (NJBIA) released its report Indicators of Innovation, apparently in an effort to make New Jersey a more affordable place to do business. According to the report, NJ fares well with a highly educated workforce, and an entrepreneurial community, but falls behind in business climate. The Association ranked NJ against seven other neighboring states from PA to MA. See their methodology HERE

The Milken Institute also released its annual State Science and Technology Indexin December. Massachusetts tops the rankings again, as it has since 2002. Colorado is number two, followed by California, Maryland and Utah.  See all the rankings HERE. (For my Maine friends, we have dropped to #40, having been in the mid-30s for some time.)

(Our own annual Maine Innovation Index is on hold due to the unavailability of critical data from the National Science Foundation currently held up by the federal government shutdown.)

2018 a Banner Year for Drug Approvals
In 2018, the FDA approved 61 new drugs, shattering the previous record of 50 approvals set in 1996.

Big Pharma was behind 26% of the drugs with another 60% going to companies that have never had another drug approved. Ten years ago, Big Pharma had 46% of the approved drugs. This suggests that scale is no longer as important to drug innovation as it once was. According to Forbes, as new technologies like CAR-T, CRISPR, RNA therapeutics and gene therapy become more commonplace, the challenges facing drug developers require ingenuity and innovation, characteristics not always associated with large corporations. For a complete list of the approved drugs, click HERE.

2018's Innovations in Agricultural Biosciences
A list of important innovations and conversations in the field highlights challenges and opportunities

Ever since I got to work with AgriNovus Indiana last summer, I've become enamored of the world of agbioscience. This is a special subset of biotechnology that has profound implications for our future ability to feed everyone on the planet, especially in light of the challenges of climate change. This list of important innovations and conversations in the field highlights some of the challenges and opportunities ahead. Author Val Giddings of ITIF says that the most important paper in years was published by the USDA and University of Illinois scientists who have "tweaked" photosynthesis, making it 40 percent more efficient at converting sunlight into biomass. Other developments in the field of gene editing continued to be controversial; there's an ongoing discussion over whether innovations using this technique, including CRISPR, are patentable, and to what extent they should be regulated and how to manage the perceived risks. At the same time, GMO labeling, the ultimate political reaction to advances in bioengineering, is still going strong. Review the full range of innovations HERE

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Surged in 2018
  The good news: the US economy is healthy. But that means more factories, more commuters, more plan flights, construction, fuel use and a 3.4% increase in emissions.

According to Rhodium Group, US power consumption increased "meaningfully" in 2018, with natural gas replacing most of the lost coal generation. And, so power sector emissions rose by 34 million metric tons in 2018, reversing a decline the year before. Modest efficiency gains in gas-fueled vehicles were offset by increased trucking and air travel and the concomitant diesel and jet fuel emissions. The report suggests that technologies such as clean power, clean transportation, and carbon removal are needed to offset these emissions if we are to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Read the report HERE.

In This Issue - February 2019

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Quote of the Month 
"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
Widely attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, but not found in his works!

New to Innovation, Entrepreneurship or Economic Development?
Want to learn more about what programs work and why?

Five Strategies for Economic Development that enhance innovation and entrepreneurship. 

Click HERE for a complimentary PDF that outlines the whys and wherefores!

Is the Era of "Move Fast and Break Things" Over?
Hemant Taneja writes in the Harvard Business Review blog that the era of Facebook's innovation credo Move Fast and Break Things is being replaced by a new paradigm of stakeholder accountability.

Taneja argues that venture capitalists need to be at forefront of this change and ask important questions of entrepreneurs designed to understand how new products will affect society, how virtuous the product is, how accountable the company plans to be and how the company will work with stakeholders. This seems to be a backlash against the perceived evils of "Big Tech." What do you think? Read the whole article HERE.

Metrics for Entrepreneurship Programs
Have you been wondering how to convince your stakeholders that your program is performing well? My book on evaluating entrepreneurial programs, written for the International Business Innovation Association (iNBIA), is available on its website. The basics apply to any economic development program. Check it out HERE.

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135 Maine Street, Suite A-183 · Brunswick, ME 04011 · 207.522.9028

Innovation Policyworks enables economic development officials at state, regional and local levels make better, data-driven decisions by providing expert research, analysis and recommendations. Our clients see innovation and entrepreneurship as critical elements of their economic development strategy, and are developing new programs or policies, and/or evaluating existing ones. 

Dr. Catherine S. Renault has been delivering innovation-based economic development results in rural states for more than 25 years, most recently as science advisor and Director of the Office of Innovation for the State of Maine. Cathy is currently developing an online course on innovation-based economic development and completing a study of patenting trends in rural states. 
  For a list of selected projects, see www.innovationpolicyworks.com/projects.