A comprehensive analysis reveals a dynamic shift in the U.S. innovation landscape, highlighting the heartland's resurgence as a booming hub for high-tech startups and venture capital investment. Venture capital investment in the heartland has more than tripled over the past decade to $55 billion and nearly three-quarters of heartland metros now attract venture capital investment.
BENTONVILLE, Ark., Dec. 4, 2023 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ -- Heartland Forward has today released a groundbreaking report, titled "America's Evolving Geography of Innovation: How the Heartland Region Can Lead the Way on Industry Transforming Technology." The heartland, historically the core of the nation's industrial prowess, is now witnessing a renaissance in high-tech innovation and venture capital investment. This shift represents a remarkable turnaround from the past several decades, where the focus of technological advancement and startup culture predominantly resided in coastal regions like Silicon Valley and Boston's Route 128. Over the past decade, venture capital investment in the heartland has more than tripled, reaching
$55 billion and some heartland cities and college towns are leading the way in becoming tech innovation hubs in their own right.
Why is this shift happening? While venture capital and the innovation it supports remains concentrated in established tech hubs, viable high-tech startup ecosystems are now found in growing numbers of heartland communities, from its big cities to its small college towns. At the same time, the coasts have come up against a crisis of affordable housing and other limits.
Increasing venture capital investments and the rise of digital technologies – like AI and robotics – have repositioned the heartland as a key player in shaping the nation's economic and technological future.
The report is authored by Richard Florida, a senior fellow at Heartland Forward and university professor at the University of Toronto and Karen King, a senior research associate at the Rotman School of Management and School of Cities at the University of Toronto.
- Over the past decade, venture capital investment in the heartland has more than tripled. The summed average of investments between 2019 and 2021 in the 20 states making up the heartland reached $55 billion. This investment surge underscores the region's growing significance in the national innovation framework.
- Notable cities like Austin, Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Dallas, Houston, Columbus, and Nashville have emerged as major centers for venture investment. Smaller metros, including Grand Forks, Springfield, and Kingsport-Bristol, are also showing impressive growth in this domain.
- Heartland college towns have seen substantial growth in venture capital investment, reflecting their potential as future hotbeds of innovation and startup activity.
Ross DeVol, president & CEO of Heartland Forward said, "our findings reveal a seismic shift in America's innovation geography. The heartland, with its growing venture capital investment and thriving startup ecosystems, is poised to ascend as an innovation powerhouse. This is not just crucial for the region's economic revival but essential for the nation's future prosperity."
Richard Florida, a senior fellow at Heartland Forward and university professor at the University of Toronto said: "Without question, the geography of innovation has shifted as heartland startups are showing their momentum and venture capital is taking note. By nurturing local entrepreneurial ecosystems and developing talent, as well as reinforcing connections between academia and industry, and ensuring access to essential resources like venture capital and digital infrastructure, the heartland can continue to foster a more robust and diverse innovation economy."
The report offers the following recommendations to leverage the heartland's unique assets and address its specific needs:
- The report calls for a shift in economic development strategy, emphasizing the nurturing of local innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems.
- Highlighting the scarcity of entrepreneurial talent, the report suggests engaging with universities and leveraging diasporas of entrepreneurs in tech hubs.
- The study stresses the importance of research universities in commercializing new technologies and generating startups.
- Recognizing the role of college towns as innovation economy anchors, the report advises strategic economic development centered around these hubs.
- The heartland's manufacturing expertise, coupled with its academic resources, presents an opportunity for a new model of technology-based economic development.
- The report urges heartland communities to actively engage in securing federal funding through initiatives like the CHIPS and Science Act and the NSF's Regional Innovation Engines initiative.
The insights and recommendations provided here are not just relevant to this region but can also serve as a model for other areas seeking to harness their own unique strengths in the evolving landscape of technology and industry. The heartland's journey towards economic revitalization and innovation is not only a testament to its resilience and adaptability but also a beacon of inspiration and guidance for regions across the country.
The full report can be found HERE.
About Heartland Forward
Heartland Forward is a policy think and do tank dedicated to being a resource for states and local communities in the middle of the country. We do this by studying broad economic trends and building data-driven and community-tested partnerships, programs and policies to address the needs of the heartland to help change the narrative about the middle of the country and accelerate economic growth.
Blake Woolsey, Heartland Forward, 1 479-957-6301, [email protected]
SOURCE Heartland Forward