Harvard clusters and MIT entrepreneurship

Today was northward through the maze of highways from New York up to Boston. I’m writing this with a sense of relief having made it through a month in US with only a few less possessions than I started.  Tonight is an overnight flight to Sweden via Iceland.  I’ve been blown away by the friendliness and hospitality of the people here – from the people I’ve met (I haven’t had one cancelled meeting) through to all the people I’ve bumped into as a tourist along the way.

Dezan Shira & Associates

Richard, the Director of North America Operations for Dezan Shira gave me a great summary of his experience of living and working in China for 10 years.  I’ll cover this off in my China section in a couple of weeks, but it was a brilliant overview that will significantly aid my time there.

Harvard and MIT

From there it was on to meet with Sarah Jane who is with both Harvard Business School as part of The Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness running the Cluster Mapping project and MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program.  Here’s Harvard Business School.


The Institute of Strategy and Competitiveness was founded by Michael Porter of Five Forces fame.

The visit wrapped a lot of structure around all the ideas I’ve come across so far, including putting into context a lot of traditional activities around industry attraction and trying to pick future industry winners.  In summary:

  • Cluster mapping methodology involves an upfront focus on data, with industries classified as either local or traded depending on where they sell to (locally or outside the region).  The key here is that while both industries provide jobs, the traded industries create higher wage growth, more productivity, and the list goes on.
    • A very smart algorithm is then applied to identify industry clusters.  There is a lot of data, which is split into three categories: Performance, Business Environment and Performance & Geography.  Tech geeks, they are using APIs.
  • Sarah Jane talked about stakeholder ecosystems to develop industries, including representatives from each sector – Entrepreneur, Risk Capital, Corporate, Government and University.  This is a great systems approach and what is very relevant for smaller locations is that Universities will often be absent and getting the mix of the other four can also be problematic.

The relationship between rural locations and cities is an interesting one…rural communities often benefit from cities growing, but if your location is declining – then what?  There’s some good rural research here too.

I’m doing cluster mapping a great disservice with this very brief summary of my take-outs, so check out the website for more info.

OK, flight is about to board so one last technology plug…here’s an almost hologram at Boston Logan airport giving people information before they pass through security.



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