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Staying on the City Growth Treadmill City Venture Guest Post by Rashik Parmar, MBE, Lead IBM Cloud Advisor

跟上城市发展“跑步机”的节奏 The ecosystem of businesses that fuel the GDP of any city has to continue to innovate and grow to remain competitive and essential to the global ecosystems in which they operate. The city can be viewed as a treadmill of businesses all running at the right pace to remain in their position. Some move faster and grow in importance, while others slow down and risk falling off the treadmill only to fall into the depths of liquidation. City leaders need to develop a clear image of their current portfolio of businesses on this treadmill to identify the strategies they need to drive to ensure the continued growth of the region.

The businesses can be grouped into five broad categories that allow the city interventions to have maximum impact.

  1. Anchor businesses — These represent the global reputation of the region and generate the majority of the regions GVA/GDP.  Most of them need a strong linkage to academic research that allows them to innovate and advance their global excellence. These businesses also need a talent pipeline that is linked to their business needs. The city leaders need to understand the linkages between these anchor businesses and other services/businesses in the region to keep this equilibrium in balance, so everyone is getting just rewards. Investments are aligned to minimise duplication whilst maximising overall value. If we take Stuttgart, the heritage of the motor industry runs through many aspects of the city, with Daimler being one of the anchor businesses.
  2. Support businesses — These support the anchor businesses, and also ensure smooth working of the range of city-supporting services. Ranging from hairdressers through to specialist tool manufacturers, these businesses are unlikely to represent a major element of the GVA for the region; however, they are essential for the region. The city leaders need to understand the needs of these business in providing meaningful employment for the region and creating vibrant communities.
  3. Emerging businesses — Encouraging innovators to convert their ideas into real businesses that could eventually challenge the anchor businesses is an vital part of the city portfolio. Members of this category need access to funding streams, motivated talent, and most importantly business mentorship that can help these fledgling enterprises navigate the maze of establishing a business. City leaders need to identify the ways in which their anchor business might be disrupted and attract the innovators establish their start-ups in their city. Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area is, of course, the best example, where we see many start-ups merging and trying to replace the dominant digital native organisations such as Facebook.
  4. Utility businesses — These businesses ensure the smooth running and efficiency of the infrastructure that support the city – e.g. water provision, energy distribution, transportation and, most recently, digital. The businesses determine the competitiveness of the region, and so appropriate investment strategies needed to ensure they keep pace with the needs of the other businesses. The city leaders need to find the fine balance of appropriate investment in these utilities at the right moment. The use of regular benchmarks is a critical element of their strategy here.
  5. Social businesses — An often overlooked but vital category of businesses that provide the services needed to support the needs of the citizens, not typically provided by the city administration – for example, companionship for elderly citizens. The city leaders need to nurture these businesses, as they attract residents to stay in the region, while their lack pushes residents out.

The analogy of the treadmill provides a strong reminder that everyone has a role to play in keeping the GDP of the region moving, otherwise, everyone risks falling off the treadmill creating an economic disaster for the region. Whilst there is no single action a city leader can take to keep the business moving, they have a critical role in understanding the subtle interconnection between these businesses to identify the interventions at their disposal that have most likelihood of success. These actions – namely, best municipal practices required to nurture venture growth and success and to improve the overall quality of city life – are a key focus for City Venture, a new CIV research strand.

rashikRashik Parmar is an IBM Distinguished Engineer and previously President of IBM’s Academy of Technology. During his thirty years of practical experience in IBM, he has worked for financial, retail and manufacturing clients on IT projects of all sizes. Overall, he specialises in ensuring the technical success of complex IT projects. He currently leading projects related to IBM’s Smarter Cities programme and development of techniques to drive industry level innovation.

Rashik is also IBM’s Partnership Executive for Imperial College – London. He is an Adjunct Professor for Department of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Imperial College Business School and Visiting Professor to the Intelligent Systems and Networks Group at the Department of Electrical & Electronic Engineering. He was recently made Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.

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