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Planting the seeds of innovation in cities

Daniel Isenberg offers some ideas for fostering entrepreneurship in inner cities in the Harvard Business Review.

Remember just a decade ago when the term "inner city" basically meant "dead city," conjuring up images of destruction, dereliction and despair? Today, inner cities are "in" – innovative, hip hotbeds of convenient culture, commerce and connection. Scholars such as Richard Florida and Edward Glaeser, among others, are showing that although increasing problems accompany increasing density, urban access to the good things of life increases even faster. The centripetal force of today's cities is pulling the ambitious and educated back in, and increasing cities' innovative capacity, without sacrificing (at least some would argue) their inclusiveness.

Entrepreneurs, too, are moving downtown: London, Boston, Barcelona and Buenos Aires are balancing the suburban pull of Silicon Valley and Route 128. Venture capitalists are close behind. Smart mayors, such as Boston's Mayor Menino and New York's Mayor Bloomberg, are fostering holistic entrepreneurship ecosystems to strengthen and accelerate the trend. Nor do you have to be a mammoth metropolis to have an urban entrepreneurship policy: led by Mayor Jorge Rojas, this month a dozen public and private institutions in the city of Manizales, known throughout Colombia for its concentration of universities and safe environment, in partnership with the Babson Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Project, launched a four-year initiative to dramatically increase the concentration of high growth entrepreneurship in the city.

What are we learning about what cities can do to foster entrepreneurship and innovation?

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