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The Power of Serendipity

Taking a month off since August has lead to much contemplation and analysis of the technology and innovation outlook in Connecticut for the fall and beyond.

With key elections around the corner and the next session of the state legislature a mere 15 weeks away, we are busy polishing our crystal ball and lacing-up our running shoes.

Perhaps most important, we are days away from sending each of you – every technology firm and its leadership in the state – an email survey to help us judge your health, your mood and your recommendations for a 2007 agenda that will help us to help you.

Our goal as an organization is to work to create an environment and culture in the state that supports innovation in general and the growth of our technology business members specifically. We have learned that only by creating a climate so strong that ideas, talent and money are not only drawn into Connecticut but are networked, assisted and retained as they succeed, can we grow quality jobs and create wealth for the state.

One message we need to deliver on behalf of the entire technology community to our political leadership is about responsibility versus blame. No one can blame our government leaders for the fact the Connecticut, like many historically high value added post industrial locations, is having a hard time creating new jobs and holding onto old ones. It is likely to be our inevitable, if unenviable future. But our collective responsibility — and only those with access to serious resources can really make a difference — is to try our very best to be one of the exceptional locations that bucks the odds and remains vital and relevant long into the coming global reorganizations.

We can do this, but if you think it trivial or a matter of marketing ourselves better, read this report (click here) about our neighbors to the south, New Jersey

What is most disconcerting is the admission that many of New Jersey’s issues are camouflaged behind continued wealth, high consumer spending and the creation of enough medium to low paying jobs that things seem okay. In the end every question can be answered by looking at whether a place is building things or buying them, and whether it is able to attract the special kinds of people who will be building new things in the future.

The Council looks at the world from four principal perspectives:

We use our diverse board of directors, thoughtful members, and relationships with many bright people in the state to create a virtual “think tank” for the many ideas and concepts that go into the business known as “technology based economic development” or “TBED.” In this way we can analyze the complex inter-relations of the ingredients that make up best practices from around the country and world for building the kind of innovative community we want to have here in southern New England /northern Metro New York. We will produce one or two major white papers a year and more regular pieces such as this column to keep you up to date on what we are learning. Through speaking engagements and frequent background sessions with the press we spread the word of what we have learned.

We are relentless advocates for anything that will position Connecticut to have a competitive advantage as the best place for entrepreneurs to start and grow a technology oriented business. This might mean asking for new money for groups such as Connecticut Innovations to invest more seed money in start-ups, supporting grant funds for CCAT to expand its incubator, or even helping explain why UConn really does need its new eminent professors program.

We support internship programs and funds for commuter railroads – sometimes the only connection may be that we feel an action will improve the chances for creating an innovation oriented “eco-system” here. Our public policy committee works on our official legislative agenda with other tech related associations such as CURE – the biotech group – chambers, CBIA and government agencies such as DECD. Our objective is to take the best ideas and practices and put together a list of actions that, if implemented, would move Connecticut closer to being in the same category of innovative locations such as Maryland and North Carolina or even Finland and Singapore.

We want to create a dense, interconnected community of innovators and entrepreneurs. It must overcome the disjointed and disconnected traditions of our small but spread out and proudly town – not region – oriented state.

We have awards dinners (the Technology Fast 50), idea generating lunches (the Connecticut Growth Network), day-long technology exchanges between large and small companies (Innovation@Work) and even business speed-dating (PowerMatch). We want someone with money in Winsted to meet someone with an idea in Willimantic. We call it the power of serendipity and creative networks– and few places can support innovation without this kind of environment.

We are building the capacity to provide direct services to conceptual, start-up or growing firms who choose to work with us. Called the innovation pipeline, this new program has an accelerator and database components. With support from the state economic development office we intend to catalogue every technology company in Connecticut with the potential to grow quickly and substantially. We will track what these companies need, what holds them back and what gets them growing. If they end up leaving and becoming successful somewhere else, we will find out why. Good epidemiological data about high potential start-ups will be enormously valuable for setting good policies in a hyper competitive world.

Your support of the Council makes it possible for us to work for the growth of Connecticut, through ideas, advocacy, community building and direct services. So, when you receive your official 2007 Technology Outlook Survey from us soon, please take the time to give us your insights and your opinions. Please also renew or start your membership in the Council as well.

The economy you build may be your own.

Matthew Nemerson President & CEO Connecticut Technology Council

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