The Wallenberg Foundations awarded a grant to Sonja Opper and Victor Nee to fund a three-year collaborative research project with researchers from Lund University and Cornell University. The high-tech digital economy has firmly established its position as a key driver of economic growth, one where small start-up tech firms are vital drivers of innovation and regional economic development. Open access to technological knowledge and an increasingly educated labor pool—with expertise in data engineering and communication technologies—have dramatically lowered the entry barriers to the high-tech digital economy. As a result, success-factors of tech start-ups have changed over time. Whereas the success of Silicon Valley was based on the technological edge of highly educated and closely connected engineers and computer scientists, new start-up entrepreneurs in this sector today emphasize the more important role of existing industry ties and the tailor-made application of their new technologies. As a consequence, high-tech development depends increasingly on close links with other industries, to develop and exploit novel and innovative applications. For example, EdTech and FinTech companies are currently at the forefront of this development.
The comparative advantage of metropolitan areas relies increasingly on entrepreneurs founding small-scale digital information and high-tech start-ups, providing essential services and tools for a rapidly changing knowledge based economic development. Not only do the IT and digital industries emerge as a new powerful sector, but also contribute to the development of new networks of innovation—which in turn help to revolutionize established industries. The proposed project, therefore, aims to explain the relationship between entrepreneurial activities and the emergence of high-tech clusters in the New York City metropolitan region.