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Guide Available of Best Practices in Technology Innovation Centers

April 21, 2000

Technology Innovation Centers (TICs), defined broadly to include incubators, business support programs and web services, direct providers, and facilitators/gatekeepers, can be successful instruments for technology-based economic development if done properly, according to the San Diego Regional Technology Alliance's recent report Technology Innovation Centers: A Guide to Principles and Best Practices. The report provides public and private organizations with key tools for getting their technology innovation center off to the right start.

The guide begins by identifying and explaining four basic principles for TIC development: focus on wealth generation, encourage the entrepreneurial spirit, provide value to client businesses and stakeholders, and operate the center as a business. The principles themselves reveal the transformation underway in technology-based economic development. Principle one, for instance, encourages centers shift their focus to the drivers of entrepreneurial activity, such as wealth generation, and away from the traditional measures of job creation, revitalization and capitalization. It is argued that these traditional goals of public sector programs will be realized as a secondary result of addressing the needs and drives of their entrepreneurial private businesses.

Eleven best practices of technology investment centers, listed below, receive considerable attention throughout the guide.

  • commit to the fundamental principles of a successful technology innovation center as the basic premise for developing and operating a best-practices technology innovation center; 
  • assess market conditions to determine the feasibility of -- and design for -- the center; 
  • establish a clear mission statement that can serve as the framework for strategic decision-making; structure the center's program to provide a clear and compelling value to client businesses and stakeholders; provide access to capital; 
  • build an organization with the capacity to respond to the needs of the center's client businesses and stakeholders in a timely manner; 
  • recruit dynamic leadership at the board and senior management level;
  • establish a financial framework that will allow the center to achieve its mission; 
  • provide a facility or place that stimulates innovation and maximizes the level of support to client businesses; 
  • recruit and select client businesses with high growth potential that can benefit from the value-added services offered by the center; and, 
  • establish a progressive set of measurable benchmarks based upon client achievement, and monitor performance with the objective of improving the center's ability to provide value to its client businesses and stakeholders. (pp. 5-6)

The guide goes into considerable detail on technology innovation center administration and management. A six-step outline for developing a value-added resource network for client businesses is found in Appendix D. As with the several of the best practices, the outline is broad enough to have application or value for several other technology-based economic development initiatives programs as well.

The guide was developed through a grant to the California Trade and Commerce Agency by the Economic Development Administration. Contact Amelia Folkes of the San Diego RTA (afolkes@sdrta.org) for more information or a copy of the report.

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