By some estimates, the United States currently has vacant office space running into the hundreds of millions of square feet: law offices, Fortune 500 companies, cookie-cutter glass boxes constructed on sandpiles of debt, etc. And, as discussed previously, commercial real estate (CRE) could very well be the next economic shoe to drop, dragging down whatever economic recovery is materializing.
At the same time, it's increasingly clear to more and more people that recovery and expansion simply won't happen without entrepreneurs: new companies that bring innovations to market. Entrepreneurs are not the silver bullet solution, yet growth will not occur without them.
So let's see: how could we possibly address a looming CRE problem as well as encouraging incipient and potential entrepreneurs? Got it! Construct completely new science parks! Ignore both problems and travel a well-trod path that, if not inspired by Field of Dreams, at least follows the same blueprint: Build it and they will come.
Oh, wait, hold on a second, I'm being told that this idea is already being pursued--it seems that Congress has taken time from its time-consuming BCS debates to pass legislation that will ostensibly "spur innovation [and] economic with development" by building science parks. And wouldn't you know it, the bill miraculously finds empirical support from the Association of University Research Parks. This is a page right out of the NVCA's playbook.
Not that science parks are necessarily bad, but evidence on their effectiveness appears mixed and, in any case, the concept would seem to contradict, you know, the entire history of innovation.
The bill's title is "The Building a Stronger America Act," which should not be confused with Build a Stronger America, an entrepreneurs' movement that seeks, inter alia, to expand the popular notions of entrepreneurship and innovation beyond science parks and venture capital, beyond the idea of walling off our "innovators" from the huddled masses of ordinary humans.
One of the absolute best pieces to read on how innovation happens is J. Rogers Hollingsworth's chapter on "High Cognitive Complexity." Synthesis, not separation, is the key.
Update: Kedrosky has written a wonderfully scathing post focused on the CRE part of this issue.