recent research

Recent Research: Predicting the commercial potential of science

Traditionally, a scientific discovery's commercial potential is gauged after significant R&D. However, a recent paper by Duke University researchers Roger Masclans-Armengol, Sharique Hasan, and Wesley M. Cohen (2024) proposes a new method for assessing the commercial potential of scientific research before it's fully developed. Using a large language model to analyze scientific findings, the researchers predicted the likelihood that a discovery will lead to marketable products or processes.

Recent Research: Paper challenges value of impact VC investors

A working paper by a team of Harvard-affiliated researchers presents challenging findings for growth equity impact investors. Given the potential alignment between this sector of the market and publicly funded capital access programs (including many venture development organizations and the State Small Business Credit Initiative), this research may find its way into public policy debates. The paper, which has not yet been published in an academic journal, also contains several shortcomings in its approach that should caution any stakeholders from acting on its findings alone.

Development impacts of disasters revealing longer-term effects on regional growth

Since 1980, billion-dollar climate disasters in the United States have increased an astonishing 749%, from averaging 3.3 throughout the 1980s to 28 in 2023 alone. These data from the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information include floods, wildfires, droughts, severe storms, tropical cyclones, and winter storms. The finding is consistent with the Fifth National Climate Assessment, released last year, that concluded the rise is due to a combination of increased exposure (i.e., more assets at risk), vulnerability (i.e., how much damage a hazard of given intensity—wind speed, or flood depth, for example—causes at a location), and the fact that climate change is increasing the frequency of some types of extremes that lead to billion-dollar disasters. Because climate change will only get worse given its current trajectory, it is reasonable to expect the number and severity of disaster events will continue to grow. Research shows TBED, systems-based planning, and conventional economic development have roles to play in mitigating future risk.

Recent research: Urban and rural manufacturers talent strategies diverge, lessons for community colleges, manufacturers and others

The challenge of attracting and retaining skilled manufacturing talent consistently ranks as a top concern in the industry. Recent findings from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) show that more than 70% of industry leaders cite workforce issues as their primary challenge for the past year, outpacing supply chain disruptions and rising raw material costs. To better understand this challenge, the Manufacturing Institute has released a new report exploring how location influences manufacturing companies’ talent development efforts. The study surveyed over 100 manufacturing firms, asking about strategies for attracting and recruiting new workers in rural versus urban settings to identify key workforce challenges for rural and urban manufacturing firms and to uncover solutions they have implemented to address their immediate and long-term workforce needs. 

Recent Research: Impacts of accelerators and incubators on economic development

A study titled Incubators, accelerators and urban economic development,[1] published in the Urban Studies Journal last year, found positive impacts on employment and access to capital for participants. The study examines the impacts of accelerators and incubators on urban economic development through a systematic review of Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)-wide evaluations, making use of policymaker and academic consultations, finding that both accelerators and incubators raise participant employment while accelerators have the additional benefit of aiding access to finance.

Recent Research: Rural regions may not be so far behind in innovation capacity

Differences in per capita innovation capacity between urban and rural regions are not as large as previously believed according to a recent working paper from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES). The study’s conclusions reduce the difference by a factor of three.

Recent Research: Exploring nationwide distribution of AI-focused Phase II SBIR projects

States with top-ranking university AI research programs garner a greater number of Phase II AI-related SBIR awards, according to a working paper from the Department of Economics at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Researchers there investigated state variations in the distribution of Phase II SBIR research projects focused on artificial intelligence (AI). The authors of the paper hypothesized that the state-by-state variations are related to the presence of a research university with a “Top 10” AI program in each state. Analysis showed that three out of the five states receiving the most funding for AI-related Phase II SBIR projects had a top-ranked AI research university. Although proximity to a top research university may be beneficial to Phase II SBIR applicants with AI-focused projects, it is not the only path to success in capturing SBIR funds.

Recent Research: Access to information is key to SBIR effectiveness

Accelerators, incubators and entrepreneurial assistance programs work to ensure their startups understand their product’s market competition, customers, and supply chain. As it turns out, that’s also good advice for small research-based firms trying to move from SBIR proof-of-concept funding to securing the larger Phase II awards. A survey of approximately 250 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program awardees by researchers finds market information from suppliers, customers, and competitors to be key for small entrepreneurial firms to increase publicly funded research and development (R&D) effectiveness.

Recent Research: Use of industrial robots yields greener economic growth

A recent study found that the use of industrial robots (UIR) can reduce a country’s overall ecological footprint while simultaneously promoting economic growth. This is through timesaving, green employment, and energy upgrading effects that increase as the level of economic development and human capital within the country increases. The researchers also observed that the effect of UIR in reducing the ecological footprint is more evident in countries that are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – which includes some of the world’s most carbon-intensive nations. Therefore, UIR can simultaneously be used to further economic growth while increasing environmental protection and reducing contributions that accelerate climate change.

Recent Research: Lessons from the first cleantech bubble and the role of venture capital and governments in clean energy

From 2005 to 2008, the clean technology industry experienced a venture capital boom where the share of total VC investments in clean energy technologies tripled before falling dramatically. Many studies have concluded that the boom and bust in cleantech as an equity investment focus was because clean energy does not fit the venture capital “model.” A recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research explores other possible reasons for the failure of venture capital to remain interested in clean energy.


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