The Xconomists Reach Out to Detroit

4/21/10Follow @wroush

One of Xconomy’s unique strengths is our network of Xconomists, leaders in the worlds of innovation and entrepreneurship who have accepted our invitation to act as occasional guest bloggers, story sources, and informal editorial advisers. We’re proud to count 61 Xconomists in Boston (our original home base), 50 in Seattle, 42 in San Diego, and 16 so far in Detroit

In April and May, to celebrate the opening of our newest bureau in Detroit, we’re tapping the entire network to asks Xconomists the same question: “What are five things that entrepreneurs and innovators in Michigan can do to reinvigorate their regional economy?” We’re rounding up some great answers, and we’ve started to publish them here on the Xconomy Detroit home page.

On Tuesday, the official opening day for the site, we ran essays by Kyoto Prize-winning Harvard researcher George Whitesides, one of the founders of biotech giant Genzyme, and Randal Charlton, executive director of Detroit’s leading technology incubator, TechTown. On Wednesday, we featured pieces from Nobel Prize-winning MIT biologist Phillip Sharp, a co-founder of Biogen and other biotechnology companies, and former GM executive Bob Purcell, now an automotive and energy consultant. On Thursday we published a piece by famed MIT researcher/entrepreneur Robert Langer, whose patents have been licensed to over 200 pharmaceutical, chemical, biotechnology and medical device companies. And we’ve got a couple dozen more essays in the hopper; our plan is to publish one or two every weekday until we run out.

The content of the essays is as varied as the backgrounds of the people writing them, but I think it’s fair to say that most of them hit on a few common themes, such as the need for entrepreneurs, investors, academic researchers, and state policymakers to work together to clear away old obstacles to economic experimentation and grease the wheels of innovation. Many in Michigan are trying to do just that, but our hope is that our posts will surface some new ideas, increase attention on the issue, and help galvanize more action.

As Xconomy works alongside other media outlets such as Time Inc. to focus attention on Detroit and the vital, instructive stories about the struggle to reinvent the region’s economy, we hope, too, that our “Five Things” campaign will underscore the fact that innovators around the country care about Detroit’s future and are watching with great interest and concern. Just as we’ve seen in our other cities, we think that it’s enormously helpful to analyze one region’s challenges by bringing in fresh perspectives from other regions. (Indeed, that was one of the effects we were always trusting would emerge as we gradually built up the Xconomy network.)

We’re extremely interested in your own thoughts about how Detroit can get its economy working again, and in your reactions to the Xconomist essays. Please write to us at editors@xconomy.com, and/or leave your comments on the individual articles. We’ll highlight your contributions in future posts. Many thanks to all our friends in Detroit for the warm welcome you’ve extended to Xconomy!


Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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