Appropriate organizational mechanisms can enable greater collaboration between human and institutional players to work on new projects and initiatives, and assist in the leverage and alignment of regional resources to maximize economic growth. An innovation intermediary is such an organization, situated at the centre of a region’s efforts to align local technologies, assets and resources to work together on innovation. Technology-based ED organizations must identify ways in which they can be restructured more like innovation-based intermediaries, as described further in this article.
The innovation intermediary has two primary functions. First, the intermediary must provide operating mechanisms for regional connectivity (see Figure 2). It accomplishes this by assuming the role of a neutral convener for regional growth, providing venues for information exchange and connectivity. One of the most notable examples of an innovation intermediary playing this role is CONNECT, created in 1985: a non-proﬁt organization formed in conjunction with the University of California at San Diego in response to a large downsizing of the defence industry (see www.connect.org). The CONNECT model features the inter-institutional exchange of knowledge and technologies throughout San Diego’s research community. It creates opportunities for entrepreneurs, researchers, scientists, business service providers and industry through structural, informational and educational activities that can lead to strong regional collaboration.
The second function of the intermediary is to serve as an accelerator which advances technologies into the marketplace for regional economic beneﬁt. Once a regional connectivity mechanism has been established, it will produce outputs that stimulate innovation in the local economy. The most signiﬁcant output is the conception and formation of new technology-based products, services and market opportunities. To accelerate innovation, the intermediary must combine scientiﬁc knowledge, market awareness, business know-how and complementary investment programmes under a single roof. Too many technology-based ED programmes focus on too few steps, resulting in wasted efforts. Finally, the innovation intermediary must continue to research, identify and market regional strengths so that it can continuously reﬁne and position comparative advantages.
Figure 3 illustrates this central regional role of the innovation intermediary.