Jan 15, 2011

The next phase of our work - Can you help?

The start of a new year is an appropriate time to make resolutions. It’s also a good time to define the next phase of our project. We talked to a lot of people and explored many options. We looked at the possibility of going into greater depths in analyzing more barriers and obstacles. We also thought of broadening our scope to examine other industrial and economic sectors.

But one idea did emerge as being particularly attractive and relevant for today’s society. Why don't we just take a specific geographical area, bring together all the local players, and look at all the levers to remove obstacles and accelerate change and the adoption of sustainable measures? Why not nurture and promote a sustainability cluster?

In other words, why not just "make it happen"?

Going back to the definition of Michael Porter from the Harvard Business School, an innovation cluster is a geographically proximate group of interconnected organizations such as universities, colleges, manufacturing and supplier companies, service organizations, financing and regulatory bodies linked by commonalities and complementarities.

Clusters have a common central purpose and generally excel in a particular sector of economic activity. Classical examples would be Silicon Valley in the area of semiconductors, Kanata (Ottawa West) in telecommunications and IT, or the lesser known town of Montebelluna in Northern Italy which for many years was the world capital for ski boots manufacturing, with companies like Nordica, Tyrol, Rossignol and Lange. Then there are the older clusters like the wine making regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy that have been around for centuries.

But here, we're not talking about a cluster that exports goods and services (although that may eventually happen) but a region which is specifically designated to promote the accelerated deployment of sustainability measures.

There is growing recognition that you can create more jobs for the buck when you invest in such measures as energy efficiency, energy conservation, or even locally-based renewable energy. The literature is small but solid and growing.

Being Green in short makes high economic sense. And it can be used to promote economic development and economic renewal, especially in a region where manufacturing and traditional industries have virtually disappeared.

At the Telfer school, we are exploring a specific initiative like that. We also know that any kind of cluster requires the building of a social community. That’s often called a cluster facilitator or catalyst. And we need the tools to do that, and we need your help to find them.

A special request

As part of our new project on regional sustainability at the Telfer School, we are looking for novel applications of social media to help facilitate and catalyze our cluster community. We need an integrative social media platform that can provide the critical linkages for an innovation clusters. We are looking for successful examples where these social networks have been used to build communities.

At the end of the day, we want to create a Clean Tech or sustainability cluster. We want to bring together communities, local government, as well as suppliers, manufacturers, technical experts and skilled trades, supported by a network of financial and technical advice and expertise. We want to share case studies, best practices, and provide some basic feedback, performance metrics, and scenarios and roadmaps.

We are looking for an integrative platform that would use the latest social network tools (Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and link to Blogs and URL sites) to accelerate the trust building, communication and sharing among the stakeholders in the cluster.

Specifically, we're looking for successful examples where a social network integration platform has been used to help grow an innovation cluster, build a community, and link the various players and stakeholders. It doesn’t have to be related to sustainability or clean-tech, but we would like to see some truly effective (viral?) examples.

Can you help us by pointing us to such sites?

1 comment:

James McNeil said...


The best example that I have come across of a clustering of like minded “green” organizations is the Partners in Project Green the Pearson eco-business zone http://www.partnersinprojectgreen.com/
Ottawa’s downtown is in dire need of urban renewal. We should be looking at an area where we can create our own eco –business zone and use this as catalyst for creating a vibrant down town.