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MIT redefines regional innovation on its own terms: MIT REAP

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During the past decades we have witnessed numerous regions across the world grappling with the challenges to shift from old industrial economies to regional innovation driven models to sustain their economic growth, and stay competitive in a global marketplace. Despite the many strategies implemented and investments made, the efforts of regions to make the leap only rarely turned into a success. Exceptions to the rule and world-known examples such as Silicon Valley, Singapore, and Tel Aviv have come through as major innovation and entrepreneurship hubs, while others continue facing disappointment due to their lack of understanding of the regional ecosystem.

Another example is the Boston region which has nailed the transition towards an innovation-driven ecosystem. Acting as a powerhouse of the New England economy with its 25.000 spin-outs worth of nearly $2t – a record that has built up over the past 100 years – MIT is the default address of regions who are embarking on their transformation process. Their capstone global initiative, Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (MIT REAP) offers a two-year program during which it empowers regional stakeholders – representatives from government, corporate, academia, risk capital and the entrepreneurial community – to trigger an Innovation Driven Entrepreneurship Ecosystem-led growth.

For many of their participating regions the MIT REAP evidence-based approach has drawn a clear picture of the components of success. From Southwest Norway who are looking for ways to reconfigure its economy that is heavily dependent on the oil and ocean business, to Iceland and Nova Scotia whose economies have long been dominated by natural resources, and Scotland with aspirations to internationalize its local SMEs, their core ingredients for change have been the same: cooperation of key regional actors with expertise, a well-defined regional strategy, and foundational institutions enabling innovative and entrepreneurial capacity development.

So far the MIT REAP has offered real-world solutions to 28 regions to help them develop the building blocks necessary to create an ecosystem favorable to innovative initiatives. The “cohort” system – a group of six to eight regions who participate in the program during the same period – has provided the opportunity to reflect and learn from each other beyond the program content. Though it is still early to discuss overall impact, the initial results of the program have already become visible in the form of new initiatives in the regions represented by the first two ‘alumni’ cohorts.

To read more on the nature and the impact of the REAP program, please read the full case study at: www.ub-cooperation.eu