When government seeks to encourage regional innovation, it typically seeks to stimulate brand new ideas and their development within regional boundaries. Yet the truth is that many places and firms are better at adapting the ideas of others than generating new ideas of their own.
The ability to draw in new ideas from elsewhere and build on them at home is a more powerful stimulus than ever in today's economy. This important new NESTA report shows that the capacity of cities and regions to meet this challenge will have a major impact on their ability to stimulate economic growth.
This ‘absorptive capacity' will depend on factors such as the presence of universities - with their international academic networks - and multinational firms. Even in the age of technology, personal contact and travel remain important.
So, more attention needs to be paid to how firms and universities acquire new ideas from other places. International firms, migrants and students often have access to new knowledge from their home countries. Greater effort could be paid to tapping that resource and to persuading both domestic and international students to stay in a city after they graduate from its university.
But not every region will excel in all these areas. There is a strong case for each playing to its strengths, with resources being targeted accordingly.
Too many regional plans seem like carboncopies of each other: this framework should help promote diversity. Equally, there is a good case for regions working together to benefit from the others' strengths.
The analysis offered in this report provides policymakers with the tools to think more imaginatively about how to stimulate regional and urban inventiveness and innovation.
Innovation by Adoption report (PDF)