recent research

Recent Research: Unicorns are routinely over-valued

In a market economy, what people are willing to pay determines something’s value. Airline tickets are a good example. For most of the major airlines, the price to purchase a seat the day of a flight seems to be some multiple of how much the airline thinks they can get away charging versus any drive to actually see the seat used.  This supply-demand principle falls apart though with valuations set for startup companies funded by equity investors, such as angels or venture capitalists.  In the risk capital business, a number of possible factors influences a startup company’s value – most tied to future markets, comparables, or dreams of big exits.  Recent research from the University of British Columbia and Stanford University suggests just how surprisingly risky – and overly optimistic – this approach is.

Recent Research: Multinationals, deindustrialization, and regional economic development

Much has been written – both here and elsewhere – about the role of trade and automation in declining U.S. manufacturing employment. Recently released preliminary research published by the U.S. Census Bureau’s Center for Economic Studies finds U.S. multinationals were responsible for a disproportionate share of manufacturing employment declines from 1993 to 2011. These results underscore the challenges facing economic development in deindustrializing regions, particularly those reliant on the branch plant economy.

Recent Research: Potential Impacts of University Incubators on Graduated Firms

A popular development strategy at the state and regional level, incubators seek to support economic growth by providing entrepreneurs with business assistance, access to capital, and networking. As of 2012, approximately one-third of the 1,250 business incubators in the United States were connected with universities, up from one-fifth in 2006, according to International (formerly National) Business Incubation Association data featured in The New York Times. Despite the proliferation of these programs at universities, there have been relatively few conclusions to date on the impacts of these incubators beyond anecdotes. Recent research from faculty at the University of Central Florida (UCF), however, finds evidence that firms in university incubators experience positive growth in number of employees and sales at a statistically significant rate compared to non-university incubated firms. On average, the authors find that university incubated firms were responsible for 3.965 more jobs than non-university incubated firms.

Recent Research: The Role of Gender in Higher Ed STEM Retention, Ideas to Address Gap

Sixty percent of students drop out or transfer from science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, and more than 50 percent of students pursuing STEM in community colleges never graduate, according to new research from researchers at the University of Missouri (UM) and other partner institutions. The five-year National Science Foundation-backed (NSF) study is collecting data from 12 engineering colleges in the U.S. and recently reached the conclusion of its second year. The researchers report that the preliminary data also indicates that there may be a statistically significant difference in STEM retention at institutions of higher education between male and female students.

Recent Research: The Effectiveness of R&D Tax Credits

When the U.S. government made their R&D tax credit permanent in December 2015, it made a long-term commitment to using incentives to entice private firms to invest in research and development, joining many countries around the world. Although most studies find that R&D tax incentives promote R&D, there is little consensus on the extent of this effect. A recent firm-level analysis from the United Kingdom finds some of the strongest evidence to date on the effectiveness of R&D tax credits in incentivizing innovation. At the same time, however, other studies suggest other elements of a national economy such as education and infrastructure may be more important.

Recent Research: Hands-On STEM Research Experiences Game Changers for Freshmen

In 2012, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released Engage to Excel – a five point strategy to increase the STEM pipeline by an additional one million workers. To achieve this goal of one million additional STEM workers, PCAST highlighted the importance of freshman research experiences for STEM students. Several studies - published over the last two years support the claims made by PCAST regarding the success of freshman research experiences. In a study from the University of Texas-Austin, the authors found that a freshman research program improved the retention of students in STEM fields. Other studies find that participation by freshmen in research experiences provides the building blocks necessary for a career in STEM. The benefits also show similarly high rates of retention after participating in a mentored research program.

Recent Research: Does Feedback on Business Plans Help Entrepreneurs?

One of the recurring characteristics of entrepreneurs, based on numerous biographies and case studies, is a driven self-confidence that may border, in some circles, as excessive or even narcissistic. Closer scrutiny, of course, shows there is no such thing as the “self-made” person, but entrepreneurship still is described often as a heroic, lone-wolf quest. Is it paradoxical to advocate for and even expect mentoring and “how to” entrepreneurship training to work? Wouldn’t “real” entrepreneurs leading promising startups succeed without the advice? A recent working paper describes an experiment that attempted to address this issue.

Recent Research: What Happens to High-Growth Firms?

Because they focus on attracting mature firms through relocation incentives, job creation strategies at the state level are often misguided, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Despite this, many metropolitan regions are increasingly focusing their efforts on attracting and retaining the high-growth firms responsible for an oversized share of job growth and economic output.  While considerable research has focused on the important role that startups and high-growth firms play in the national economy, relatively little has been done to apply a regional lens to this phenomenon. New research, tracks high-growth firms over a multiple-year period to assess how their changing operations can inform regional economic development.

Recent Research: Improving Recruitment/Retention Success with Elite Academic Life Scientists

The National Science Foundation tells of a record number of doctorates awarded at the same time the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) reports opportunities to secure tenure-track positions continue to shrink, the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association points out state support for higher education remains below Great Recession levels, and AAAS says many federal agency research budgets are only now approaching pre-sequestration levels of 2012.

Recent Research: What Makes Economies Resilient? Economic Diversity, Experienced Workforce

What leading indicators allow a national, state, regional, or local economy to rebound from an exogenous shock (e.g., economic downturn or natural disaster)?


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