For Earth Day: Toward a Better Understanding of Our Regional Innovation Systems

April 17, 2014

The strategic direction of good regional innovation investments, from research through commercialization and production, must be based on the best information regarding the current trends, assets and needs of the regional innovation system. Socio-economic data and asset mapping tools - available through sources like the three EDA-funded sites: Stats America and US Cluster Mapping and the Regional Innovation Acceleration Network (RIAN) – provide good starting points. The first two sites help policymakers and practitioners characterize their targeted geographic area for key demographic, industrial, and economic indicators. RIAN’s site identifies 15 asset blocks integral to all regional innovation systems.

Additional metrics are used in regional, state and national indices and dashboards prepared by numerous groups with the goals of helping ascertain progress toward carefully selected measures of prosperity.

We’re learning all of this isn’t enough, though. We are ignoring critical information that affects every region’s health, future economic performance and prosperity.

The Fifth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes it painfully clear that socio-economic data isn’t enough for monitoring the long-term health of a regional innovation system. With ever-more-frequent use of words like ecosystem, resilience, rainforests, gardens and sustainability in economic development jargon, it is important for future TBED investments to be designed around solid environmental indicators as well.  

But how to start?

The Report on the Environment, prepared by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, provides the best available, scientifically developed indicators for national and regional trends in environmental and human health. Nearly 100 specific indicators are grouped into six themes, each with more detailed subthemes: Air; Water; Land; Human Exposure and Health; Ecological Condition and Sustainability.

In addition to mapping key indicators by region and state, the report’s data can be downloaded for incorporation into your own regional strategies, indices or dashboards.

Understanding these trends also can help design and inspire innovation and technology entrepreneurship opportunities tailored to address the most critical environmental issues discovered within your region. 

The public has the opportunity to comment on the draft Report of the Environment until April 27, 2014.  More information and access to the data is available through: http://cfpub.epa.gov/roe/.

regionalism, stats