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Unpublished Paper
Innovation Districts as a Strategy for Urban Economic Development: A Comparison of Four Cases.
This is a preliminary draft version. Please do not cite or quote without direct author permission. Funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. (2019)
  • Joshua Drucker, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Carla Maria Kayanan, University College Dublin, Ireland
  • Henry Renski, University of Massachusetts - Amherst
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Innovation districts are a relatively new strategy in urban economic development. They have been fast gaining attention and popularity, due in part to energetic third-party promotion and the apparent successes of two early adopters:  Barcelona and Boston. As additional cities establish and promote innovation districts, it benefits policymakers to possess information regarding their characteristics and suitability as an economic development approach.
We conduct in-depth case studies of four innovation districts in the United States—located in Boston, Detroit, Saint Louis, and San Diego—that present contrasting settings, policies, and outcomes. The empirical information is drawn primarily from interviews with the innovation district creators and implementers and the entrepreneurs embedded within them. We assess the expectations, design, implementation, and operation of these innovation districts, with reference to stated and normative policy goals along with theories of regional economic development. Our purpose is to provide scholars and policymakers with guidance as to how and how well innovation districts may achieve the aim of urban economic development to generate economic dynamism and prosperity.

  • innovation district,
  • innovation,
  • entrepreneurship,
  • innovation ecosystem,
  • entrepreneurial ecosystem,
  • economic development,
  • urban redevelopment,
  • placemaking
Publication Date
July, 2019
Citation Information
Drucker, J., Kayanan, C. M., and Renski, H. 2019. Innovation Districts as a Strategy for Urban Economic Development. Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.