Place-Based Public-Private Partnerships for Innovation (P4I)

Authors: Deborah Crawford, Jim Kurose, Mason Ailstock, and Bob Geolas


The next administration should launch national Place-Based Public-Private Partnerships for Innovation (P4I) to supercharge American innovation by leveraging the power of proximity and partnerships, and in so doing, lay the foundation for a new and more inclusive era of American prosperity.

The P4I initiative will catalyze the formation and growth of vibrant Innovation Zones (IZs), creating powerful points of convergence that weave together place-based investments with educational, research, entrepreneurship, and economic supports to advance inclusive economic development from the American heartland to the coasts. IZs will catalyze the public-private development of mixed-use innovation hubs that house and support: training programs to prepare diverse and resilient labor forces; advanced research and development (R&D) activities undertaken by partnerships between universities and industry; and, incubators, accelerators, and investor groups to incubate, grow, and retain high-tech businesses.

P4I should be implemented by an interagency committee convened by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) under the auspices of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). An interagency initiative will be critical for success, mobilizing federal agencies that share responsibility for all aspects of innovation and economic development policy, including STEM R&D, formation and growth of U.S. innovation industries (small to large), and innovation-based economic and workforce development.

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About the Authors

Deborah Crawford is the Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Tennessee Knoxville (UT). Deborah previously served as vice president for research, innovation and economic impact at George Mason University, president and executive director of the International Computer Science Institute, a not-for-profit research institution in Berkeley, California, and senior vice provost for research at Drexel University in Philadelphia. She worked at the National Science Foundation (NSF) for 17 years, where she held a number of executive leadership positions and where she served as the agency’s liaison to the National Science and Technology Council, the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Institutes of Health. Her leadership contributions at NSF were recognized twice with Presidential Rank Awards.

Jim Kurose is Distinguished University Professor of Computer Science and Associate Chancellor for Partnerships and Innovation at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.From 2015 to 2019, Jim served as an Assistant Director at the National Science Foundation (NSF), where he led the Directorate of Computer and Information Science and Engineering. While at NSF, Jim also served as co-chair of the National Science and Technology Council subcommittees on Networking and Information Technology Research and Development, Machine Learning and AI, and Open Science. In 2018, he also served as Assistant Director for Artificial Intelligence at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Mason Ailstock is Senior Principal at HR&A Advisors, an industry-leading consulting firm committed to the reinvention of cities into vibrant urban centers that offer jobs and sustain a high quality of life for diverse communities.Mason joined HR&A after serving as the Vice President of Operations at The University Financing Foundation (TUFF), where he advised a wide variety of local and international university projects. Prior to TUFF, he was the Chief Operating Officer at the Research Triangle Foundation, where he led the organization’s business development, marketing, real estate, and partnership efforts.As an Eisenhower Fellow, he traveled to Sweden and Saudi Arabia and studied the global evolution of innovation districts and the impacts of place-based design and public-private convergence on their success. Mason is the former President and a current Board Member of the Association of University Research Parks.

Bob Geolas is Partner at HR&A Advisors. Prior to joining HR&A, Bob served as President of the Research Triangle Park (RTP) in North Carolina. Previously, Bob led one of the country’s most successful public-private research and development campuses as Executive Director of the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research. Bob has received several awards for his work, including the Vision Award from the Association of University Research Parks, Alumni of the Year Award from North Carolina State University College of Humanities and Social Science, and the Triangle Top 20 CEO of the Year Award.