Increase the number of globally competitive innovative products and services produced in North Central Kansas.
Innovation is key to sustainable regional growth and development and requires strong participation in open and collaborative networks. Successful innovation networks often consist of a critical mass of spontaneously-forming collaborative teams potentially located in different places, but working together and interacting frequently. Rural regions that may lack this spontaneous critical mass needed to proactively weave inter-linked networks of entrepreneurs, universities, government agencies, banks and other support institutions.
The North Central Regional Planning Commission (NCRPC) intends to identify, strengthen and utilize existing/underlying formal and informal networks to foster innovation in the region. The project aim is to help the NCRPC strengthen the region by assisting businesses as they connect and build regional networks that enhance competitiveness and capabilities. The current project work will be build on a previous pilot project work and use the knowledge base gained to advance innovation networking in the region. Previously, we explored traditional cluster and industry analysis in rural regions. While the previous work was intended to expose nascent traded clusters or key industries as well as underlying networks and regional attitudes; traditional cluster strategies miss the opportunities and overlook the complexities in rural areas. To overcome the limitations of cluster-based economic development yet benefit from its advantages, we propose to develop a new tool for categorizing businesses based on their capabilities and needs and pilot forming innovation networks based on such a profiling process.
Need-based clustering can overcome the traditional barriers caused by working in a rural region with only a specific industry(ies) that is(are) a part of the region’s key industries by including companies from different industries. Such a tool will cluster companies based on their capabilities, capacity and needs rather than simply the products that ship off the dock. This need-based clustering, in addition to network mapping, will identify sources of opportunity and collaborations. The project will link various companies, universities, regional organizations and other support institutions based on the needs and capabilities.
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