In previous posts we discussed how the digital revolution failed to democratize opportunity. Instead, globalization and other factors such as automation have exacerbated – rather than equalized – regional disparities. This is due to the fact that making and manufacturing is a critical source of the innovation that drives growth. We emphasize the critical role of emplacement in ecosystems, drawing particular attention to the role of collaboration and communication in alleviating the alienation and isolation that hampers innovation. In this concluding post, we elaborate further on how a robust collaboration platform such as Peerdash in fostering a can-do culture of making and doing that empowers people to solve their problems, themselves.
Tools that transcend industry and empower human capital for robust regional ecosystems
In-real-life (IRL) place- and space- metaphors are abundant in information technologies: desktop, chat rooms, bulletin boards. As embodied and emplaced human beings, of course we construct cyberspace to reflect real places and experience. However, most current tools tend to be industry or solution specific and do not take into account the human-ness of innovation collaboration,
Productivity tools, such as Dropbox, Microsoft 365, Jive, and Slack, allow users to share information, but not to discover synergies, people, or ideas – in the industry, they would be called “information silos.” This type of tool works best with existing companies and established virtual workers. What it does not do is create opportunities for the thousands of displaced workers in fly-over country.
Besides connecting resources and people, a central tenant of innovation is the protection of our ideas and communication. Almost all productivity tools currently in use are not secure – applications, email drives and cloud databases are regularly hacked, and companies are paying out large sums of money to hackers who steal their IP for ransom. In order for the innovation of this country to rise to level it needs to be in order to secure our future, the building block, the communication tool, must be secure.
There is only one platform technology – Peerdash™ – that was built “from the ground up” to specifically tackle innovation ecosystems and secure, multi-institutional collaboration. A product of “Emplaced Innovation” itself, Peerdash was a co-creation by specialists in their respective fields of: intellectual property law and asset management, systems-level technology, and regional economic development at the national and international levels.
Peerdash™ humanizes cyberspace to reflect emplaced ecosystems. Its unstructured database architecture reflects the decentralized, self-structuring emplaced networks that most closely resemble real-life interactions and communities.
Its driving ideology is security married with flexibility – and Peerdash™ can apply this lesson to entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystems, where the stakes are the highest, and benefits to the nation are the greatest.
Regional economic development is critical for the competitiveness and security of the United States. It is also central to the integrity of American culture as self-reliant; interdependence fosters American independence. The current situation in the United States is the opposite of what it was in the post-War era. In 1945, the United States was a manufacturing powerhouse that supplied the world following the devastation of the Second World War. Government investment in science and technology was required to keep up the momentum of America’s competitive edge, fortifying its industrial dominance. Today, decades of outsourcing has crippled the country’s grassroots innovation capacity, impoverished hard-working American families and led to the neglect of industrial infrastructure. The economic development discourse has been dominated by scientism; science & technology are privileged over makers’, problem-solvers’, and tinkerers’ innovations in terms of their perceived economic impact.
Culture matters because ecosystems are people connected. Culture is less a policy-motivator, and more a policy-parameter; innovation and ecosystems that spur economic growth and development must be people-centric and emplaced.
Treating the symptom of economic deprivation without addressing the underlying cause (isolation and alienation) is doomed to failure. The innovation studies literature emphasizes the importance of decentralized, fluid networks that cross-disciplinary, functional, and organizational boundaries, but convene geographically. Shortcomings of the innovations studies literate include a) privileging technology and mainstream R&D institutions over grassroots innovators, and b) overemphasizing a normative approach.
Ecosystems are emplaced and embedded in a can-do culture of making and problem-solving. It isn’t enough to bring back manufacturing jobs, without fostering a fertile environment for innovators and entrepreneurs at the grassroots to take root and flourish. The backbone of such an ecosystem is a robust collaboration platform that empowers people to engage securely, identify synergies and work together.
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von Hippel, Eric. Democratizing Innovation. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2006.
 Economist Robert Solow identified the significance of technology in accounting for a large portion of economic growth in the late 1950s.
 Joseph Schumpeter (1942); also Richard R. Nelson and Sidney G. Winter’s An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change (1982).
 Michael E. Porter (The Competitive Advantage of Nations, 1990) is one of the most influential scholars of business and economics of the current period.
 Wesley M. Cohen and Daniel A. Levinthal (1990) identify absorptive capacity as a factor that can inhibit or enable competitive advantage.
 Annalee Saxenian (Regional Advantage, 1994) undertook a comparative study of Silicon Valley and Route 128 to determine what cultural factors enabled the San Francisco Bay Area to outperform Boston in information technology in the 1980s.
 In Democratizing Innovation (2005), Eric Von Hippel argues that an important source of grassroots innovation is user-centered innovation, a disruptive, entrepreneurial force. Supported by ICT improvements and co-evolving with the free and open-source software movement, user-innovation communities and a rich intellectual commons are giving rise to grassroots innovations and entrepreneurial ecosystems that reach beyond software to improved designs of physical products.
 Edmund Phelps, Nobel Laureate in Economics (2006), argues in his book, Mass Flourishing: How Grassroots Innovation Created Jobs, Challenge and Change (2013), that the standard narrative attributing the explosive economic growth of modernity to the discoveries of explorers and scientists to be patently false. Rather, a change in culture resulted in “minds stirred and empowered to conceive, develop, and market innumerable new products and processes…”