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An innovative road map to a New Dominion
The Commonwealth Innovation Index

Date published: 11/5/2010

THE ECONOMIC downturn has presented both challenges and opportunities that put us at a crossroads. We know all too well what the challenges are, but to find the opportunities, we must move beyond old economic development models and the noisy rhetoric that demonizes government or business. We must come together as a region to unleash the creative and innovative spirit that resides here to create what we call the new innovation economy.

Virginia has the nation's highest concentration of technology workers, but it lags in technology transfer, or commercialization, and seed-stage capital formation, both key factors when creating the next generation of technology companies.

Today, entrepreneurs here have a harder time finding seed-stage funding for their startup companies than their counterparts in North Carolina, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. To fix these barriers--and to prepare for federal budget cuts--we need to champion innovation as the driver of these new economic opportunities.

That is why we at the Fredericksburg Technology Council are part of the Commonwealth Innovation Index--a grass-roots, community-driven tool that helps regional leaders look five to 15 years ahead for common economic opportunities in the form of industry clusters. They then can identify and address barriers, or gaps, that may impede those opportunities.

Ultimately, the goal of the index is to enhance both regional and statewide strategic planning so that we can steer toward more innovation and advanced technology company formation and attraction. It will save public and private dollars with smarter strategic investments, instead of throwing money at the newest shiny lure that comes dangling by.

The index was created in 2008 by an act of the General Assembly. It charged the Center for Innovative Technology to work with Virginia's 10 regional technology councils and other industry leaders. They're to develop a long-term planning tool designed to foster innovation, identify opportunities, and develop technology-based economic development strategies. Speaker Bill Howell and Sen. Edd Houck were instrumental in the passage of the bill creating the index.


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