Can Bhubaneswar drive 21st century innovation?

As Odisha’s mining and manufacturing economy crumbles with recent reports of illegal mining coming to the fore, Bhubaneswar City could become a land of empty places unless it swiftly movesto knowledge and creative economy; which it is heading towards – the recent visit of the British High Commissioner of India to the city is testimony to that.

The recent physical transformation has begun with investments in amenities including a new hockey stadium, a city ring road, development of an Information Technology Investment Region (ITIR) and Satellite Township at South City.
Bhubaneshwar AIIMS Image

The city is now home to AIIMS, NISER, IoP, ISI,IIT, IMMT, CIPET, XUO, Apollo, AMRI, IMI, BIMTECH, KIIMS, KISS, CIFA,IIITamong others. All told, these “eds and meds” institutions, which employ many excellent teaching/researchpersonnel, have started investingcroresin the knowledge sector of late. The amount may still be relatively small,when we consider of similar hubs globally, but is growing every other day.

Both established and young tech and creative industry firms are joining in too. These concentrated, economically robust regions are poised to help propel the revitalization of Bhubaneswar.

Demand for quality housing has followed, as expected. Today its residential offerings—mostly apartments and condos in mid- and high-rise buildings have most desired amenities offered in any metro.

The location preferences of innovative firms and institutions in now Bhubaneswar—and their workers—have shifted alongside this economic and demographic power that the city offers.

At its best, it provide both the physical and the social infrastructure for collaboration and networking, including public spaces, flex space for collaboration, residences that also place a premium on shared-work and socializing spaces, social activities and networks, technical support, and mentoring programs.

Bhubaneswar could be the country’s next “Innovation City”—a relatively new term just beginning to gain currency among political, business, and civic lea

ders. It describes a concentration of innovative institutions and resources that together create a more-than-the-sum-of-their-parts effect.

It has the raw materials to foster clusters and create new opportunities for residents of the city and the region: a density of innovative institutions and companies, including hospitals, universities, and research centers; clusters of tech and creative firms; and resources for entrepreneurs and new businesses, including affordable workspace and venture capital.

Decades of research has shown that innovative industries are concentrated in regional clusters, geographic concentrations of interconnected firms and supporting or coordinating organizations.

Think Silicon Valley or Route 128 in Massachusetts, with their thick networks of professors, researchers, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, intellectual property attorneys, and engineers who learn from one another, trade ideas, hop among companies, and create new enterprises; and you will know what I am hinting at.

The growing economic base and the clusters of innovative institutions are creating jobs, drawing in residents, and generating tax revenue for a city that is greatly in need of all three. But we have the potential to do even more for the city and the wider Eastern Region of the country.

Jobs in the high-tech sector have a profoundly positive effect on the economy—what experts call a multiplier effect. As the urban economist Enrico Moretti has found, over the long term, each new high-tech job leads to about five additional jobs. According to Moretti, “from the point of view of a city [economy], an innovation job is more than a job.”

Moreover, recent studies have shown that the most innovative industries are driven to collaborate and share knowledge more intensely, and proximity has a powerful positive impact on their ability to do so.

Economists Stuart Rosenthal and William Strange find that intellectual “spillovers”—what one company or person learns from another company or person—drop off dramatically with distance. At a distance of just over a mile, the power of intellectual ferment to create another new firm or even another new job drops to one-tenth or less of what it is closer in, they write, because “information spillovers that require frequent contact between workers may dissipate over a short distance as walking to a meeting place becomes difficult or as random encounters become rare.”

Because the local government is as always wrapped up in the complex politics process; networks of business, civic, philanthropic, university, and community leaders have to take on the task of building this“Innovation City”.

It requires myriad elements, including a ready workforce, transit links, investments in buildings and physical infrastructures, and a willingness on the part of institutions to share their innovations and intellectual capital. No one entity or individual can provide all these things.

In Bhubaneswar, communities like Bhubaneswar Hub - Global Shapers (a World Economic Forum initiative), Bootstrap Bhubaneswar and Bhubaneswar Start-upsand start–up networks like TiEBhubaneswar and Invest Bhubaneswar are doing their part of heavy lifting. Will the others institution also follow suit? Do you think Bhubaneswar will re-imagine its physical space to drive 21st century innovation?

Devasis Sarangi 
Little Steps Pre-school

About the Author:  
Devasis Sarangi is Co-Founder of “Little Steps Pre-school”, an early childhood education and care start-up, in Bhubaneswar, India. He strongly believes learning is not just a path to a good career but should be fun and exciting.His focus on community collaborations has led him to leadership role and advocacy in much needed waterfront development in the city; put Bhubaneswar’s airport on the international aviation map; and unshackle encroached urban space to promote sports.

A mentor to a bunch of aspiring entrepreneurs at TiE Bhubaneswar, Devasis also eats problems at Bootstrap@Breakfast and Bhubaneswar Start-Ups and loves sharing ideas at Invest Bhubaneswar. He is an active life member of INTACH that helps fulfil his desire to promote and preserve traditional art, culture and heritage.

His love for river rafting provides him the creative strength to face both professional and personal challenges. Photography allows him to push his comfort zone and be creatively unpredictable. Devasis loves to write about Bhubaneswar, the city he loves and lives in.

Article First Published on : (Thursday, February 13, 2014)

Thursday, February 13, 2014
Thursday, February 13, 2014

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