Five ways to make innovation ‘sticky’


Mark Muro | The Brookings Institution | September 23, 2015 — What does it take to make innovation “sticky”—that is, locally commercialized?  That was the question on the table last week when the Metro Program advanced industries project and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) brought two dozen business, economic, and development leaders together at the lab to anatomize efforts to localize the commercial benefits of regional research institutions.

Going forward, U.S. prosperity depends on America’s ability to generate and commercialize advanced industry technology innovations locally and domestically.

Unfortunately, America’s ability to capture the benefits of the domestic scale-up of U.S. technology innovation remains spotty.  Too often insights, technology, and know-how fly out of local research centers and university labs and into international value chains, where they are commercialized (and yield jobs) far away.

However, last week’s dialogue surfaced key elements of an emerging, distinctively American style of “bottom up” regional practice that aims to both drive innovation and localize its downstream commercial benefits. Oak Ridge Director Thom Mason talked about the importance of anchor institutions developing “conscious cluster strategies,” as ORNL has around its carbon fiber specialization. President Joe Moody of the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM) and Executive Director Fred Cartwright of the Clemson University International Center for Auto Research (CU-ICAR) each described how their centers’ local activities are relentlessly focused on what their global industry partners need. And notwithstanding the global nature of modern production systems, numerous workshop participants belabored the “extreme importance,” as one executive had it, of the “local context.”

Here are five takeaways: <more>

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