Spreading Tech Innovation

America’s successful tech hubs haven’t emerged by accident.

Upper interior of the Peoria Innovation Hub
Upper interior of the Peoria Innovation Hub

With work underway on the Peoria Innovation Hub and last year’s launch of the Peoria Innovation Alliance, the Greater Peoria region is highly focused on innovation and entrepreneurship as the key to future economic growth. As it turns out, we have found the nation’s pulse right here in the heartland. 

A new report from the Brookings Institution and Information Technology & Innovation Foundation urges the federal government to designate eight to 10 potential growth centers—all at locations removed from existing tech hubs—that would receive substantial financial and regulatory support to help accelerate, transform and scale up their innovation sectors. 

With five metro areas (Boston, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle and San Diego) accounting for more than 90 percent of U.S. innovation-sector growth from 2005 to 2017, regional divergence has become a serious national problem. Not only has excessive tech concentration undercut economic inclusion and raised social justice issues, it has meant less overall innovation activity as companies increasingly move from high-cost U.S. tech hubs to lower-cost foreign hubs. Creating tech hubs in the heartland would provide an opportunity to reduce this “innovation offshoring.”

Among other recommendations, the report suggests a direct R&D funding surge of up to $700 million a year in each metro area for 10 years—about $100 billion in total (which iws substantially less than the 10-year cost of U.S. fossil fuel subsidies).

“America’s successful tech hubs haven’t emerged by accident—most are products of deliberate policy choices,” writes Robert D. Atkinson, report co-author and ITIF president. “A strong federal effort focused on helping some metros transition into self-sustaining tech hubs can help more Americans benefit from the significant opportunities enabled by high-tech industry growth.”

“It’s time for the nation to… conduct a major experiment to see if we can help eight to 10 promising metros emerge as really dynamic anchors of growth in the nation’s heartland,” adds Mark Muro, co-author and Brookings senior fellow and policy director. If Washington, DC can get its act together, perhaps Greater Peoria would be among them. Find the report online at itif.org. PM