One international fact finding delegation after another has been visiting High Tech Campus Eindhoven in 2015. Each and every one of them came over to find out for themselves which elements of the HTC success formula are the most crucial. Bert-Jan Woertman, marketing director of the Campus, has been answering all their questions with great patience. And although Woertman is convinced that every city will have to find and build its own magic potion, there still are some lessons to be learned from the Eindhoven ecosystem. Here’s Woertman’s top-10.

This is an extract of the original blogpost by Bert-Jan Woertman, which can be found here.

woertmanEvery community generates a mix of all kinds of special ingredients. Together they create the secret sauce which gives the whole place a distinct competitive advantage. Although there are no hard and fast rules, here are my ten innovation ecosystem signposts to be looking out for.

1.   Don’t try to copy – but do seek inspiration

It takes years to build a collaborative innovation ecosystem. Copying won’t work – because every smart city has to find its own “magic potion”. But we encourage you to cherry pick from our experiences to build your own mix. We’ve benefited from adapting good ideas we’ve seen on our travels.

2.   Build on Good Heritage

Some legacy networks from (former) corporates in your metropolitan area may be valuable, willing to collaborate and share. Experiment by introducing the heroes of the past to the undiscovered raw talent of today and tomorrow. Never stop experimenting. Expect the unexpected.

3.   Culture is a state of mind. Innovation is not a department

Innovation is not a department. Innovation ecosystems are a state of mind. Only 25% of Innovation success depends on the investments in ICT and related technologies. But 75% comes from other factors such as management innovation, removing hierarchical pyramids, maximising investment in human capital and co-creation with partners. Talking of an innovation ecosystem magic potion…

4.   Understand and grow your unique skills

The really global tech companies are built by leaders with a global vision from day one. How will great companies from your city scale to become world brands? Leverage the international corporates to share their networks with local SME, startups and researchers to brew this innovation ecosystem.

5.   Tell more powerful stories than your competition

You’ll never make an impact if you don’t share your stories across national borders. People want to understand why they should care and what you’ve learned rather than hear you brag about your list of achievements. Be sure to identify the local influencers that are willing to share their expertise with international media.

20160103_154429-16.   Collaboration is the best strategic path

Truly agile companies know they don’t have the funds, time or capacity to achieve success fast enough on their own. Strategic alliances are the way of cutting development costs and accelerating time to market. Tap into local trusted networks first to see what’s possible.

7.   Tap into resources already there

In the Brainport region, many “internationals” bring their partners, who turn out to be extremely well qualified. The Expats Spouses Initiative is an active network of 500+ local expat spouses who turn out to be chemists, scientists, engineers and mathematicians. They help us grow our local and international networks. And spouses that successfully restart their careers will encourage the whole family to stay in this innovation ecosystem.

8.   Create platforms and they will cluster

Eindhoven is building “clusters of excellence” in photonics (anything to do with light), precision engineering (various kinds of robotics), artificial intelligence, smart sensors and knowledge around new materials. Find your own core strategies of excellence. Then weave formal and informal networks together of OEM’s, SME’s, startups and research institutes. Once you establish trust, informal networks tend to work much faster than formal ones.

9.   Proximity to Brilliant People is key

There’s a tight correlation between personal interactions, performance, and innovation. Putting restaurants, a conference centre and convenience services along The Strip was deliberate. Everyone has strong reasons to go there repeatedly during the course of the workday: the concept of maximizing chance encounters. This reminds us of the Allen Curve, which explains why proximity is so important for innovation ecosystems to thrive. Even distance-shrinking technologies don’t break this rule; both face-to-face and digital communications follow the Allen curve. Out of sight means out of sync.

10. Don’t neglect the little things…because they matter

Alumni of our Startupbootcamp HighTechXL accelerator program tell me the help and support that teams give to each other during the 3 months are what makes it incredibly special. Having access to trusted mentors within walking distance is just as important.

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About the author

Author profile picture Bart Brouwers is co-founder and co-owner of Media52 BV, the publisher of innovationorigins.com.