Julie Wagner | Harvard Business Review

The Tower Bridge links Sacramento with West Sacramento. imging / Shutterstock.comThe geography of innovation is shifting. For proof, start with Google, which over the past 10 years has taken the core R&D and innovation-oriented activities it once housed only in Silicon Valley and extended them into cities. The company’s presence in London’s Tech City, New York City’s Chelsea district, and Pittsburgh’s Bakery Square reflects management’s calculation that being in cities increases the company’s access to growing tech-oriented ecosystems, advanced research institutions, deep pools of talent, and distinct regional specializations.

In its decision to go urban, Google has been joined by not only other tech firms such as Twitter, Microsoft, and Spotify, but also companies like Comcast, Amazon, Pfizer, Quicken Loans, and countless numbers of small start-ups and entrepreneurs.

For the past 50 years, the landscape of innovation has been dominated by regions like Silicon Valley—suburban corridors of spatially isolated corporate campuses, accessible only by car, with little emphasis on the quality of life or on integrating work, housing, and recreation. After visiting dozens of U.S. and European cities, interviewing hundreds of practitioners and experts on the ground, and scouring scholarly analyses of investor and firm behavior, we are convinced that a complementary new urban model is now emerging, in the form of what we and others are calling “innovation districts.”

These districts, by our definition, are “geographic areas where leading-edge anchor institutions and companies cluster and connect with start-ups, business incubators, and accelerators. Compact, transit-accessible, and technically-wired, innovation districts foster open collaboration, grow talent, and offer mixed-used housing, office, and retail.” Read more