Why we don’t want our own Silicon Valley

Many people over the last couple decades have wondered how they could bring the perceived success of Silicon Valley to their favourite city or region.

Around the globe, university research parks, government money and dozens of high tech associations have all tried to find and replicate the ingredients and none have successfully copied the recipe.

They likely never will.

We may as well try copying the culture of Paris or the manufacturing sector of China. They, like Silicon Valley took many decades to find their groove and become global forces.

Maybe everyone should try to be a copy of Cape Canaveral. There are a lot of opportunities in space. Unfortunately you are just as unlikely to create an aerospace industry in a research park as it too requires more than just a few low rise office buildings and some VC money.

Every country and region has locally created innovation and invention. Usually to solve local problems. Where most regions fail is recognizing and nurturing these local creations, which often have export potential and are in adjacent markets to the rest of the local economy. This adjacency provides for domain expertise and opportunities to grow the entire base instead of just a single sub-sector of Technology or Agriculture or Biology.

Much like the manufacturing sectors, most have been content to import tech and ideas cheaply from other regions. This leads simply to innovators going to the region most likely to assist in commercialization of their ideas. This is the failure of economic development. Silicon Valley is a commercialization region, a community and infrastructure to fund these ideas and find ways to export them.

What regions should be doing is recognizing, strengthening and supporting local innovation and finding ways to grow and commercialize regionally and globally instead of focusing energy on creating another Silicon Valley. Their secret is not being a fountain of ideas but trying out and promoting what works.

There are thousands of other solvable problems beyond the borders of the valley. Grow those and become your own regional powerhouse. The innovators and inventors will solve the problems they see around them and will feed off of the local energy.

If you try to make your region about chips and web companies than those are the solutions you will get. Then you are likely ignoring the rest of your local innovators and competing against every other region trying to do the same copy.

As the economy changes it is important to remember that strengthing and diversifying your local base is more benefical to your region than trying to duplicate someone elses.

Ultimately we do not need to copy them. Embrace your locality and its specialities and then tell and sell that to create your own success.