"Silicon Valley is shrinking," proclaims a headline in the latest online edition of Computerworld, a trade publication that has tracked the genesis and evolution of computers and "the valley" itself for nearly three decades. The article goes on to point out that the number of high-tech jobs in Silicon Valley industries declined by 86,000, or 16.5 percent, between 2001 and 2008, based on figures from a federal study of employment trends in the valley.
In the aftermath of the worst financial and economic collapse the world has seen since the Great Depression, gloom and doom about Silicon Valley, America's cradle of technology innovation, has become pervasive. Next to the plunge in the jobs curve, the concomitant decline-and-fall of the venture capital business, the lifeblood of entrepreneurs, garners almost as many depressing headlines.
To add insult to injury, Switzerland just aced the United States as the world's most competitive nation, pushing America into the #2 spot, just ahead of fast-rising Singapore, according to the World Economic Forum's latest Global Competitiveness Report.
End of story? Don't bet on it.
Behind the gloomy headlines, studies, figures, and rankings is a much more optimistic development for the U.S. and the world's economies. Far from "shrinking," Silicon Valley is actually undergoing its most historic and significant expansion since Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard (of H-P fame) moved their audio oscillator business from Packard's humble garage shop into more business-like facilities in Palo Alto, Calif.
Silicon Valley, and that region's unique, indigenous process of entrepreneurial-driven technology development and innovation itself, has gone global. Through ubiquitous computing, omnipresent communications, the Internet, and globalized high-tech R&D, technology innovation has moved from the garage to the global stage. And when all is said and done, current economic indicators notwithstanding, Silicon Valley - and the world as a whole - will inevitably re-invent itself, and not just survive, but also thrive in this new global innovation and technology-based economy.
As history has shown, tough economic times don't halt the evolution of technologies and their applications. On the contrary, tech innovation can drive economic recovery and strengthen competitiveness. Consequently, innovation, technology, and high-tech R&D have become national imperatives for practically every nation in the world.
Early this summer, the International Association of Science Parks (IASP) held its annual conference, in Raleigh, N.C.'s Research Triangle Park - an event that attracted more than 700 delegates from over 40 countries, representing all quarters of the global innovation economy. As one delegate from the Berlin Adlershof tech cluster put it, despite the global economic meltdown, "The hard-core tech sector is doing very well."
Like Silicon Valley, regional tech centers from Brazil to Bangalore are finding that technology development thrives in an environment of creative intellectual energy that offers a networked economy, proximity to research institutions and universities, unique intellectual property development, a diverse base of high-tech talent, access to investment capital, and good infrastructure. As IASP delegates would attest, these attributes are no longer unique to Silicon Valley, but are now characteristic of an increasing number of metropolitan regions around the world. Innovation hubs, regional science and technology parks, and the very process of technology development - in electronics, computers, biotechnology, alternative energy, etc. - are no longer limited to a few select locations.
In today's global tech economy, innovative businesses and regions are flourishing and branding their locations and regional demographics, by making global connections, tapping into virtual opportunities, breaking down local jurisdictions, and building regional innovation engines, or what some call "future knowledge ecosystems" - or the next Silicon Valley.
Richard Wallace (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an award-winning journalist, former editor-in-chief of EE Times, and a 30-year veteran of high-tech publishing. Now an independent editor and publisher, he recently launched thenextsiliconvalley.com, a new media website focused on exploring technology globalization for the worldwide business and economic development community.