Monday, April 2, 2012

The Innovation Economy and Urban Space

We are in the midst of a period of exceptional change in our economy and in the role that cities play in it, and it is a transformation that is widely acknowledged but little understood. In a reverse of the suburbanization trend of late 20th century, density and intensity of activity are not seen as detrimental to economic growth but are considered a fundamental and necessary component of it in an economy where knowledge, creativity and capital must interact freely and fluidly. 

Developing the right urban space that fosters this activity is a major challenge, and while there is some agreement on what the ingredients need to be, truly successful urban environments that mix live, work and play in the right amounts and in the right ways are rare. 

Nevertheless, the value placed on creativity and risk-taking in the labor force will only continue to grow.   Knowledge per se is no longer seen as the most valuable commodity in this knowledge economy.  Instead, it is the leveraging of knowledge through interaction to create new and in many cases unexpected insights where the true premium is understood to exist. 

The urban space needs to foster this and encourage it, through its plan, its accessibility, through its support of element such as night life and more seemingly tangential uses like promotion of bicycles and walking, and ubiquitous internet access.  This is all part of the challenge of being attractive to a cutting edge labor force to come work, create and stay. The stakes in this truly global game are high, and the payoff is seen to be higher.