A broad view of innovation and economic development

Here some interesting bits from Rich Bendis on innovation. The specific topic in on economic development in Iowa, but the comments speak very well to anyone who thinks innovation and the intangible economy doesn’t include all sectors:

Basing our economic development efforts on innovation will benefit both agricultural and manufacturing industries.
. . .
The benefit of an innovation economy is not limited to larger metro areas and tech centers. One example of this is from two Iowa agricultural companies, Pioneer and Monsanto. As they increase yield in corn per acre, it has increased a substantial return on investment for those companies and farmers; in addition, it has also increased the wealth in communities, and has increased the overall wealth and economic stability of the state.

Does anyone really want to argue that Pioneer is not a knowledge-intensive company — and therefore we can just write off agriculture as part of the Intangible Economy? Yet some have — implicitly by consigning agriculture and manufacturing to the past.
They are wrong. The only thing that should be consigned to the past is the outmoded notion that economic development means moving up the value chain and abandoning agriculture and manufacturing.
Economic development really means transforming agriculture and manufacturing into knowledge intensive activities. That transformation has already occurred in many ways in agriculture — in part due to active government policies to establish land-grant colleges, agricultural research institutes and an agricultural extension service.
Remember — all of these institutions were specifically designed to increase the production and dissemination of knowledge.
We are now in the same level of transformation in manufacturing — from mass produced low-price commodities to higher value added goods and services. We need to make sure we have a similarly appropriate set of policies in place to aid with this transformation.

One thought on “A broad view of innovation and economic development”

  1. Bendis says it very well. Also in Iowa, TechWorks Campus in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Metro & Cedar Valley economic region is a redevelopment of a 40-acre manufacturing plant that is focused on the innovation that emerges from the relationship between manufacturing and bio-mass and production agriculture, and renewables that are scaled to industrial and on-farm use. There is no reason to ignore the constant innovation that is happening in agriculture and can only come to market through advanced, and increasingly sustainable manufacturing processes. In our case, our private sector example is John Deere, as well as Pioneer and several others. Further, we focus on how primary research is commercialized, as with our resident National Ag Based Lubricant Center and UNI’s Bio Based Binders Center.


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