Sunday, May 16, 2021

Will Texas succeed in forming a new Silicon Valley to compete with California?

Texas may be different, not because of its recent flagship relocation. Unlike other potential innovation centers, the state has quietly nurtured the high-tech industry for decades. And if Texas eventually competed with California, the consequences would be dire not only for the industry but for US policy as well.

Let’s go back a little. At different times in the history of the United States, many regions have emerged as clusters of industrial innovation flourishing, and have spawned powerful new companies with vast sums of wealth. These “innovation clusters” attract a large mass of companies and talent that often rely on institutions specialized in training future generations of workers and entrepreneurs.

Part of the reason for her career is related to Rice University in Houston, which continues to play a major role in driving technical innovation in the state, just as Stanford University does with Silicon Valley. Indeed, many of the first players in Silicon Valley moved to California after graduating from Rice University, forming what was sometimes called the “Rice Mafia”.

FUERSTENWALDE, GERMANY – SEPTEMBER 03: Tesla head Elon Musk arrives to have a look at the construction site of the new Tesla Gigafactory near Berlin on September 03, 2020 near Gruenheide, Germany. Musk is currently in Germany where he met with vaccine maker CureVac on Tuesday, with which Tesla has a cooperation to build devices for producing RNA vaccines, as well as German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier yesterday. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

Shadow of Silicon Valley
It was appropriate for “Rice” University to play a major role in the next step in the rise of Texas. In 1961, the university donated more than a thousand acres of land to build what became known as the “Johnson Space Center”, which led to the flooding of a city that was previously a county, Real rocket scientists. Like Silicon Valley, where government contracts and telecoms have proven imperative for the region to stand on its feet, Houston’s lead in the space race has unleashed a host of related industries.

It all happened very gradually, and almost imperceptibly, as Texas remained a shadow of the thriving Silicon Valley, but as the state boomed, the public university system boomed. The pioneering university soon emerged in Austin, and startups began to sprout across the campus, as well as along Interstate 35 that connected Austin north to Dallas and south to San Antonio. This corridor connected with Houston, which was already thriving at the time.

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