“van Agtmael and Bakker paint an exciting picture of the future based on progress made possible by cooperative processes they call “brainsharing”. Citing unheralded developments in specific places and specific industries, this extraordinarily well researched book challenges the conventional view of a developed world in relative decline. The authors make a compelling case for the role of connectors, who bring together a diverse collection of players required for collaborative success. This compellingly argued and lucidly written book is a must read for anyone who cares about the future of the planet.” –David F. Swensen, Chief Investment Officer, Yale University
“An absolutely fascinating tour of cities in the United States and Europe that were once traditional centers of manufacturing which are now reinventing themselves as hubs of innovation. If you want to understand how economies at the local level can transform themselves, this is the book to read.” –Liaquat Ahamed, Author of Lords of Finance
“A lively, lucid story of innovation and transformation powered by brainpower and business, academe, and regional governments working together…. the smartest book on one of the most important and promising trends in the American and global economy.” – Strobe Talbott, President, The Brookings Institution
“In every chapter of economic history, unexpected places have cultivated the dynamism that transforms society at large. Antoine van Agtmael and Fred Bakker describe how the next generation of emerging hotspots are located in unlikely places, as industry connects with the energy of universities and academic medical centers to transform rustbelts into “brainbelts.” This scouting report will interest students of the future taking shape today.” –Richard Brodhead, President, Duke University
“This eye-opening account of innovation in unlikely places will raise the spirits of anyone discouraged by the gurus who keep telling us the future belongs not to the established democracies of the capitalist world, but to emerging powers mostly in Asia. No, Van Agtmael and Bakker tell us, the “smartest places on earth” may be in little-heralded cities in the United States and northern Europe, where business people, scientists and creative managers are inventing smart new products and ingenious new ways to manufacture them. They tell us that many of the old economies of the developed world “are entering a revolutionary new phase” because “the global competitive advantage is shifting from cheap to smart.” I found their arguments, and the facts they have gathered to support them, both intriguing and convincing. And their book is fun to read.” –Robert G. Kaiser, Former Managing Editor of the Washington Post and Author
“This book upends conventional wisdom about how the global economy works and which places are primed to thrive and prosper. Van Agtmael and Bakker capture the complex market dynamics that are revaluing the formidable assets of U.S. and European older industrial cities: advanced industries and networks of universities, companies and governments that collaborate to compete. These are refreshing insights that build on real world experience and evidence rather than antiquated group think.” – Bruce Katz, Brookings Institution Centennial Scholar, Co-Author of The Metropolitan Revolution
“The authors offer a compelling and insightful look at how companies and communities are turning ashes into silicon valleys.” –Harold L. Sirkin, Senior Partner, The Boston Consulting Group (BCG)
“The riveting story of how failing rustbelts in the Unites States and Northern Europe have transformed themselves into emerging brainbelts through the triumph of collaboration and ingenuity to become promising models of bottom-up innovation” –Hilda Ochoa-Brillembourg, Founder and Chairman, Strategic Investment Group
“Van Agtmael and Bakker take us on a joy ride to understand the importance of smart people forming bonds of trust in far-flung places. Welcome to the new world of manufacturing, where freedom to innovate trumps cheap labor, putting the US and Europe back at the center of the global economy.” –Jessica Einhorn, Former Dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University
“Antoine van Agtmael and Fred Bakker have written a serious book that anyone with an interest in business, technology, innovation or the future of the world economy should read. It looks at the trends that are redefining the way the world works but have not yet been fully appreciated or understood–buy that will drive future growth and the creation of new opportunities. Given Van Agtmael’s exceptional record as an investor and major trend spotter throughout his career his views and insights deserve special attention and given the readability and quality of the reporting behind this book they will surely receive it.” –David Rothkopf, CEO and Editor, Foreign Policy Magazine
Review Issue Date: January 15, 2016
An economist/public policy adviser and a financial journalist envision a transformative resurgence in industrial regions that had threatened to rust from within. Van Agtmael and Bakker find hope where others have seen decades of decline, as cities from Akron to Dresden have awakened from industrial obsolescence. “That’s because, like the fairy-tale Sleeping Beauty,” write the authors, “they have lain dormant for a long time—doomed to a state of inertia by the evil witches of policy or (lack of) leadership or faulty analysis—and have been given up for lost by entrepreneurs and investors.” Continuing with the fairy-tale motif that (thankfully) doesn’t pervade the rest of the book, they write, “the awakening beauty develops new capabilities, particularly the ability to adapt to new circumstances and to refocus its energy on new areas of activity.” No, the old jobs are never coming back, and the old factories will billow their smoke no more, but there are now collaborations between corporations and universities, an embrace of technology, and a shift from the primacy of a traditional liberal arts degree toward “vocational training, which…had almost disappeared, especially in the United States.” All of these changes have accompanied a global shift in emphasis from cheap labor and products toward “making things as smart as possible,” with quality and ingenuity. van Agtmael was principle founder of Emerging Markets Management, and Bakker is a Dutch journalist and editor specializing in financial affairs. Though the former, also born in the Netherlands, has lived in the U.S. since 1968, the perspective here on the transformation of “rustbelts” into “brainbelts” has an outsider’s freshness toward America and an international expansiveness. The authors acknowledge areas of concern, such as monopolization and loss of privacy from consolidated data, but they suggest that the rewards far outweigh the risks. Akron glitters like never before in these illuminating pages.
Publishers Weekly Review
Review Issue Date: January 25, 2016
In their debut work, journalist Bakker and international finance expert van Agtmael team up to show how onetime rust-belt areas in the U.S. and Europe are emerging as new centers for innovation. After observing examples of this phenomenon, they set out to understand it, with the idea that perhaps “making things as smart as possible,” rather than “as cheap as possible,” might be the way of the future. Through extensive travel to places ranging from the SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s Nanotech Multiplex in Albany, N.Y., to Akron, Ohio, to Dresden, Germany, to Eindoven, Netherlands, they discovered common themes among these unlikely “brainbelts.” These include innovation sharing between research universities and corporations, physical spaces that encourage collaboration, and environments that attract talent. The authors make a strong case that a renaissance in the development and manufacturing of “chips, new materials, and biosciences” is happening not in tech or major urban centers, but in reclaimed factories and settings like the revitalized American Tobacco Campus in the North Carolina Research Triangle. For anyone looking at trends in technology or manufacturing, or at the future of global business, this insightful work will provide food for thought.