Not only multinational companies and investors are setting up a presence in the Bay Area, but governments and regions too. According to the new Report “Government Innovation Outposts in Silicon Valley”, presented today during the Mind the Bridge Scaleup Summit held in San Francisco, the role of government agencies is becoming increasingly central in supporting and bridging innovation between their home country and California.
Institutions from 40 countries worldwide have in fact set foot here, including Chambers of Commerce, Consulates, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Bridge Organizations and Trade Organizations, for a total of 77 outposts established. Out of the total outposts, 80% are in Silicon Valley (69% of which are in San Francisco), 20% are in Los Angeles (9 out of 15 of these outposts also have an innovation office in Silicon Valley).
“We define a Government Innovation Outpost as the presence of a Government-supported Bridge or Trade Organization, with dedicated personnel located on the ground, with or without a structured physical office – commented Marco Marinucci, CEO and founder of Mind the Bridge – By offering various services and programs, they effectively act as one-stop shops for innovation stakeholders that are landing in California or in their home country.”
“Their focus is on trendspotting and benchmarking – added Alberto Onetti, Chairman of Mind the Bridge – to identify technology or business trends and inputs for innovation policy, on fostering entrepreneurship, investment, and business opportunities for their own companies with a dedicated focus on startups, on increasing awareness of the home country in California as a dynamic, innovative region and providing visibility to the country’s innovation stakeholders.”
Who and where
This is quite a recent trend, anyway: 60% of those outposts did not even exist before 2010. The majority (50) are from Europe, mainly established by institutions from Belgium (7), Germany (6), the UK (6), France (4), and Austria (3). Denmark, Sweden, and Norway register 2 each, Iceland and Finland 1. Also worth mentioning is the presence of Italian, Spanish, Dutch, and Irish institutions (2 outposts each).
To these, a new Italian entry has to be added. The Aspal Agency (Sardinia Region) has announced today the launch of the “San Francisco Desk” inside the Mind the Bridge Innovation Center, aiming at supporting Sardinian companies, promoting the economic development of the region and increasing job placement opportunities. The extensive project also includes training and capacity building for different targets that can really strengthen the internationalization skills of young Sardinians: an innovation antenna to intercept evolutionary trends and to offer support services to Sardinian companies in their quest to attract funding and enhance the Sardinian productive system.
“Sardinia Region wants to favor its innovation system and Sardinian companies that are increasingly carving out a relevant role in the world” declared the Sardinia Regional Program councilor, Giuseppe Fasolino. – The happy synergy between the Regional Programming Center and ASPAL, strongly committed to promoting the growth of Sardinia and the precious collaboration with Mind the Bridge demonstrate the continuous commitment towards this direction.”
APAC (including Australia and New Zealand) is the second most represented region with 20 outposts: 4 are from Korean institutions, 2 from Japan and Taiwan each. Other regions (North America, LATAM, MENA and Israel) follow a more exploratory approach, with 2-3 outposts each.
The research has mapped, surveyed, and interviewed dozens of Governmental Trade and Bridge Organizations in California about their structure, strategies, activities, and results. They typically sport a lean presence, with 75% of them hosting between 1 and 10 professionals, while the remaining 25% have deployed relatively larger teams ranging from 11 to 50 professionals. In total, they are currently hosting an estimated workforce of about 250-500 professionals.
“Based on this analysis, it turned out that a typical government outpost, over a period of 10 years on average, helps 25-50 startups and corporates establish a branch abroad or in their country of origin, with their startup alumni raising between $100- 250M in equity since participating to its programs – added Onetti – It also supports the creation of 500-1000 new jobs, fosters $100-250M in commercial deals, and attracts half a billion dollars in FDIs. Figures like these cannot be definitively overlooked.”
The majority of outposts have shifted towards a tailored (50%) or a blended (36%) service model. Only a limited number of outposts (14% of total) rely for the most part on standardized service offerings. In addition, before the pandemic, the vast majority of outposts (82%) offered mainly onsite services, while only a relative minority sported a blended (5%) or digital (14%) model. During the pandemic, substantially all outposts (90%) radically shifted to a full-digital model. The “new normal” is characterized by a comeback of the onsite service model (32% of outposts), but also by a more significant surge of the blended model, now employed by 59% of outposts, along with a minority that went full- digital (9%).
86% of outposts provide educational and immersion programs, 45% organize immersion programs multiple times a year, 41% offer accelerator programs. All recorded outposts produce reporting material. 70% publish multiple materials per year, while the remaining 30% do so more occasionally, preferably producing customized reports for individual projects or clients. The vast majority of outposts organize trade missions: 30% of them do so multiple times a year, while another 55% more occasionally. Approximately 1 out of 3 outposts that focus on fostering bilateral trade agreements.