Do technology clusters really drive innovation?

BIT Center Tijuana

Early next year there will be a brand new technology center across the border in Tijuana that aims, among other things, to provide office space to companies in the region. It’s the BIT Center, or Baja’s Innovation and Technology Center.

It’s intent (translated from Spanish):

  • Strengthen SME sector companies, expanding its export supply
  • Create Academic outreach programs generate productive sector within the center
  • Generate solutions to increase the use of technology in the community through ongoing training
  • Promote vocations of the secondary-school students to study engineering, through exhibitions and conferences

All good, but to these ‘technology clusters’ really drive innovation?

The issue I have, and maybe you do too, with these technology clusters is that they just create technology for technology sake. They also follow the conventional view that all innovation is technological innovation.

These were the first things that came to my mind when I first heard about this project. I also thought that they’re looking at it the wrong way. Why? Because innovation isn’t just technology. It’s about people.

If our intent is to create a culture of innovation, not to say the BIT Center isn’t a good starting point, we need to think diversity. Diversity of people, diversity of thought. Not more of the same.

Think about it, what if you mixed culture and arts with technology? All in the same place? Sharing work space with each other working side by side.

CECUT In Tijuana we have the CECUT or Tijuana Cultural Center. A center where culture and technology meet would work something like TED but without the conference. This isn’t a pipe dream, as there many organizations that already work in similar fashion. IDEO and FrogDesign immediately come to mind.

Now imagine this replicated in an office space with different companies, with different areas of expertise; not just technology. That would be a true ‘Innovation Center’.

Anyways, what do you think. Do technology clusters really drive the type of innovation that we need?


  • The research evidence on this is strange Jorge.  There is clear evidence that more innovation occurs in clusters (areas with lots of similar firms working on similar problems), however, there is no evidence that creating a cluster leads to more innovation.  And I think you’re exactly right about the overfocus on technological innovation.  

    • Hi Tim,

      Thanks for the pointer. I’m going to explore this further although Leo also makes a great reference to the MediaLab Prado in Madrid. But still we don’t know if anything they’ve ‘thought up’ has led to any significant innovation. He also makes a good point, and agree with, that clusters are more important to developing countries than undeveloped.


  • Leovillarcastillo

    Maybe MediaLab initiatives are similar to what you are proposing here. MediaLab Prado Madrid is a very good example.

    By the way, I think in developing countries clusters have a huge importance. Probably it is not the same thing when we talk about developed countries.

    • HI Leo,

      Thanks for pointing out the MediaLab Prado. From the description and content on their website it looks like it does work like that. Do you know if any of the ideas they’ve come up with have resulted in any significant innovation, incremental or disruptive?

      And I agree with you that clusters are more important to developing countries than developed.



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