In today’s economy, innovation and entrepreneurship are necessary elements for companies to stay competitive.

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In fact, a survey by PWC reports that 80 percent of CEOs believe innovation drives efficiencies and leads to competitive advantage.

It’s equally important for locations to consider the importance of innovation. According to the Global Innovation Index by the World Intellectual Property Organization, the top performing countries in innovation (Switzerland, UK, Sweden, the Netherlands and the United States) are also all high-income economies. That’s because innovation-based industries like life sciences and information technology bring high-paying, high-quality jobs with them.

Innovation, however, is not something that can be grown overnight. Commitment and collaboration across public and private entities is critical.

Here are four best practices that cities and states in the U.S can use to foster innovation and support entrepreneurship:

1. Start with universities

Universities are not only a source for talent; they are a great source for innovation. Higher education institutions are in a unique position to connect forward-thinking students with expert professors and leading companies to create innovation. Today, students go beyond the typical science fair displays—they’re working on 3D-printed arms (students at the University of Central Florida), gloves that translate sign language (students at the University of Washington) and more.

2. Give innovation a space

Innovation needs more than just people — it needs a place. The Boston-basedCambridge Innovation Center(CIC) has made it its mission to support a startup and innovation ecosystem within the city since 1999. CIC creates unique spaces where innovation can take place, such as C3, the largest co-working center in the Boston area; District Hall, a gathering space for the Boston entrepreneurs located in Boston’s Innovation District, and LabCentral, a world-class life sciences lab space for startup biotechnology companies.

3. Provide resources

To bring innovation from the lab space to market requires investment. One of the biggest challenges for researchers and entrepreneurs is accessing the capital necessary to make their ideas a reality. Businesses should feel empowered to ask their local economic development groups what tax credits or incentives they offer specifically for research and development work. For example, The Netherlands offers multiple R&D tax incentives designed to support innovation throughout the entire R&D process.

4. Cross-collaborate

In addition to financial support, innovation requires full government, academic and industry support. One example of this cross-collaboration is California-based Singularity University(SingularityU). Founded by companies like Google, Cisco, Nokia and more, SingularityU offers programs and partnerships to help individuals, businesses, institutions, investors, non-governmental organizations and governments better understand cutting-edge technologies and how to apply them.

Posted by Jan-Emile van Rossum