Sunday, November 20, 2011

Florida's Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Entrepreneurs throughout Central Florida are bringing innovation and creativity to industries across the economic development spectrum.For decades, economic development professionals have done an outstanding job of attracting, retaining and growing jobs for their communities.

More recently, they have focused on specific industry sectors represented in their service areas. These specialized economic clusters may include manufacturing, clean technology, digital media, life sciences, and warehousing and distribution.

Economic expert and Harvard professor Michael Porter defines a cluster as a “geographic concentration of interconnected companies and institutions working in a common industry.” He goes on to say that clusters encompass an array of collaborating and competing services and providers that create a specialized infrastructure that supports the cluster’s industry.

The economic cluster model represents a synergy­, a dynamic relationship and a network between not only the companies that compose a cluster, but also the successful partnering of its stakeholders. Job creation and new entrepreneurial innovations are able to flourish in such a collaborative environment.

I have been studying some of the economic principles of cluster and industry development and the way these theories can apply to the development of an entrepreneurial cluster, or Entrepreneurial Ecosystem. Such an ecosystem could be compared to a living organism, such as the Everglades, populated by a vast number of species. In such a biological ecosystem, it's the relationships among the different species that is valuable.

A business ecosystem could be defined as a network of resources, competencies, energy, potential and commitment to realizing a shared, profitable future. In this Web age, or Knowledge Economy, the goal isn't to build alliances among firms, as it once was, but to build relationships among people. These relationships include entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs, investors, professional service providers, researchers and scientists, local development officials and others. Among entrepreneurs, there is a strong desire to gain access to expertise, shared ideas and learning from one another. These interpersonal relations constitute the distinctive nature of an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, and they push each individual to seek a community that can provide access to knowledge and ideas, driving innovation and economic progress.

Innovation can take many forms: from commercializing science and enhancing the customer experience to identifying new solutions and pressing social issues. Innovation requires access to a greater variety of ideas, perspectives and approaches to solving problems, mixed together in a way that provides diverse conversations between people of different backgrounds to facilitate the formation of new ideas. Creativity comes through networking and collaboration with artists, musicians, scientists, professionals, economists, architects, engineers and others. Knowledge sharing and the exchange of ideas are key to cultivating a strong entrepreneurial culture.

David A. Sampson, assistant secretary for economic development at the U.S. Department of Commerce, says, “Innovation will drive the growth of American industry by fostering new ideas, technologies and processes that lead to better jobs and higher wages, and a higher standard of living. America’s capacity to innovate will serve as its most critical element in sustaining economic growth.”

Entrepreneurs throughout Central Florida are bringing innovation and creativity to industries across the economic development spectrum, and that’s why I believe that advancing the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem as a vibrant cluster for our region will produce economic vitality and global recognition.

To reinforce the need for knowledge sharing and the exchange of ideas, watch for Orlando Inc.’s Entrepreneurs Academy, designed by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. The focus of the academy is on “connecting entrepreneurs to success” by helping them navigate the ecosystem and connect to the rich set of resources we have right here in the Orlando economic center.

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