A large scale Growth Builder programme

Another Growth Programme – on a bigger scale

A global initiative designed to help regions accelerate economic growth and job creation: through innovation-driven entrepreneurship; and by means of a two-year programme of six-monthly action-learning workshops.

The MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (MIT REAP) works with partner regions that commit to a two-year learning engagement with MIT. They form multi-disciplinary teams to work with the MIT faculty and the broader REAP community, through a series of action-learning activities, to build and implement a custom regional strategy for enhancing their entrepreneurial ecosystems.

MIT REAP involves four action-learning cycles over a two-year period. These cycles involve highly interactive workshops every 6 months, which are interspersed by action phases:

(1) A typical workshop is 2.5 days and consists of lecture & discussion, case study analysis, ecosystem engagement tours, programmatic deep dives, group work report-outs, and preparation for action phases. Two workshops are hosted at MIT and two workshops are hosted by selected partner regions.

(2) Action phases are active time between workshops where teams return home to deepen analysis, validate assumptions with a broad network, and implement new programmes and policies.

During this two-year engagement, regional teams are empowered to:

  • deploy to analyse and evaluate their current entrepreneurial ecosystems;
  • catalyze action through the development of a common agenda for creating impact;
  • Leverage understanding of key drivers
  • share best practice from MIT faculty and partner regions;
  • build bridges internally across regional stakeholders to drive progress;

and exchange ideas with the partner regions and the MIT REAP community.

MIT REAP admits 8-10 partner regions annually to participate in the two-year engagement. A typical REAP region has a population of 3-10 million people. Each partner region has a team comprised of 5-7 highly driven and influential regional members and is headed by a regional champion. All 5 major stakeholder groups are represented in an MIT REAP team: government, corporate, academia, risk capital, and the entrepreneurial community.

Hangzhou, China was among the first REAP cohort in 2012, as was Scotland (London was in the subsequent cohort, and Wales is in the current one). The rise of Alibaba, located in Hangzhou, and its founder, Jack Ma, “has proved instructive for a generation of young Chinese — not just as a road map to riches, but as a lesson in entrepreneurial individualism. Today, thousands of young people across China are creating start-ups of their own, driven by visions of what they might do if they, too, strike it big.

“The Alibaba money has helped spur a constellation of Internet companies in China. Over the last decade, one-time Alibaba employees have helped start 130 Internet businesses, more than any other Chinese company, according to Itjuzi.com, a website that tracks investment in domestic technology companies.

“Three years ago, Lai Jie, a former Alibaba product manager, sold a big chunk of his shares and started WiTown with three co-workers. Today, the venture, which runs wireless Internet service in public spaces like airports, has nearly 80 employees, most in Hangzhou. A former Alibaba product manager, he pulled together $81,000 for his company, supplementing his own funds with money from an angel investor and a no-interest loan from the local government.

“People here really value bold thinking and risk-taking, and the government is also pretty good, which is a rarity in China,” said Mr. Lai. In recent years, Hangzhou’s department of science and technology has distributed $130 million to 152 start-ups, according to its website.

“The combination — Alibaba’s success and the government’s support — has helped turn Hangzhou into an entrepreneurial hub. Last year, the e-commerce industry’s contribution to the local economy was 56 percent more than in 2012, and last year was responsible for 25 percent of all local economic activity.

“Zhejiang University, one of the nation’s top-rated schools, has become something of a feeder farm for local high-tech firms that aggressively recruit graduating seniors. Incubators, which bring together a number of start-ups under the same roof, are also popping up around the city.

“Started in 2012, the Fudi Startup Incubator Centers are the brainchild of Li Zhiguo, an early employee at Alibaba who went on to found Koubei.com, a business review site later sold to Alibaba. The newest Fudi center is a collection of brightly colored buildings that are home to dozens of start-ups. “Among the biggest tenants are Zhang Jie and Fang Yi, angel investors and entrepreneurs who oversee eight start-ups.”

Who will run something of this kind for clusters in the UK?

John Whatmore, October, 2016 (Adapted from various sources.)



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