The Superstar Gap
The biggest challenge facing many cities in transitioning to the knowledge economy is a shortage of “A” talent, especially true superstars.
All “talent” isn’t created equal. Crude measures such as the percentage of a region with college degrees, or even graduate degrees, don’t fully capture this. It is disproporationately the top performers, the “A” players and superstars that make things happen.
Sections of the knowledge economy have long been geared to superstars. Economist Enrico Moretti cites research on biotech hubs, in which he notes that it is not just having a top university nearby that mattered in establishing biotech clusters, but having the true handful of academic superstars researchers. In The New Geography of Jobs, he writes:
“In a fascinating and now classic article and in a series of subsequent studies, they argued that what really explains the location and success of biotech companies is the presence of academic stars – researchers who have published the most articles reporting specific gene sequencing discoveries. Among top universities, some institutions happened to have on their faculties stars in the particular subfield of biology that matters for biotech; others had comparable research but did not have stars in that specific subfield. The former group created a local cluster of biotech firms while the latter did not.”
Richard Florida devotes a significant amount of his latest book The New Urban Crisis discussing the rise of the superstar phenomenon, which he also links to specific superstar cities.
Superstars are important in tech because....
This piece originally appeared in NewGeography