Five Things Entrepreneurs and Innovators in Michigan Can Do to Reinvigorate Our Regional Economy

4/20/10

1. Reinforce success — Our research and development ranks second in the nation behind Delaware, in part because of the massive amount of research done by the auto industry. In spite of the current problems, this research has allowed Detroit to lead the auto industry for almost 100 years. A great deal of this research has application in non-automotive sectors. We need to access it.

2. Focus on our strengths — Detroit is on the border of another country and 20% of the world’s fresh water. By focusing on its unique location and assets, it has an opportunity to become a leader in certain business areas such as water purification and use technology, homeland security, and international trade, including logistics.

3. Develop a package of support systems for new entrepreneurs that can be scaled and replicated throughout the region — Throughout the world there is recognition that business incubators can dramatically improve the chances of new business success. We need to figure out the right combination of services—and the ways in which those services can be delivered to the maximum number of pre-qualified potential entrepreneurs.

4. Alter the culture within universities — Universities, particularly research departments, have to be recognized for the value they bring through the transfer of intellectual property to locally established companies. Tech transfer departments have to become entrepreneurial in their approach to speeding technology from the lab to the marketplace.

5. Identify early stage finance for startups — Without early-stage financing new business activity will not happen. We need dedicated funds that make bets on early-stage enterprises and move companies to the point where they can qualify for more traditional financial support from venture capitalists, angel investors, and banks.

[Editor's note: To help launch Xconomy Detroit, we've queried our network of Xconomists and other innovation leaders around the country for their list of the most important things that entrepreneurs and innovators in Michigan can do to reinvigorate their regional economy.]


Randal Charlton is the executive-in-residence at TechTown, a Detroit research and technology park. His current focus is on entrepreneurs over age 50 through the Boom! The New Economy program. Follow @

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