Spinoff Regions

The Spinoff Regions Initiative explores the urban and regional development implications of emerging innovative and entrepreneurial industries.

Seattle's High-Tech Economy: The Puget Sound Technology Universe


In early 2009, we released a study that traced the genealogy of more than 711 firms, institutions and organizations in the Puget Sound region. The project examines the role of anchor companies and institutions such as Microsoft, Aldus/Adobe, the University of Washington, Amazon, and Boeing. These firms represent the anchor companies in the economic ecosystem. Startups founded by former employees orbit around these 'suns'. Data was collected through an online survey. The study was supported by the Washington Technology Industry Assocation and several sponsors.

Press coverage:


Evolution of Second-Tier High-Tech Regions


Prof. Heike Mayer examined the emergence of so-called "second-tier" high-technology regions in the United States. These emerging high-technology regions are challenging traditional technology corridors such as Silicon Valley and Boston's Route 128. We conducted a case study research on Portland, Kansas City, Boise, and Phoenix. Common to these regions is the fact that even though they lack a world-class research university, they have been able to root high-tech activity through leveraging innovative firms, entrepreneurs and regional assets such as quality of life, talent pools, etc. We examined the position of these regions in the global production networks and visualized entrepreneurial genealogies. Additionally, we examined the ways in which local universities are responding to opportunities emerging from high-technology growth.

This research was supported through grants and fellowships from the Smith Richardson Foundation and The Brookings Institution.


More information about the case studies may be found here:

  • Boise
  • Portland
  • Kansas City
  • Phoenix/Tucson



Visualizing Entrepreneurial Genealogies

In this project, we examined entrepreneurial genealogies and visualized family relationships between major firms and startup companies in a region. The Silicon Forest Universe poster was created in 2002. Lateron data was collected to visualize startup dynamics in Portland, Boise, Phoenix, Kansas City, and Seattle.

 Women and Minority Entrepreneurship

Over the last decades, the number of women and minority-owned businesses has increased substantially and they are among the fastest growing groups of entrepreneurs. However, women and minority entrepreneurs still face challenges. This research examined the opportunities and challenges as well as the economic geography of women-owned and minority owned businesses. Specifically, we examined women-owned high-tech firms in four U.S. regions (Silicon Valley, Portland, Washington D.C., and Boston).

The research was sponsored through grants from the Kauffman Foundation and the Small Business Administration.


  • Mayer, H. (2008) Segmentation and Segregation Patterns of Women-Owned High-Tech Firms in Four Metropolitan Regions in the United States. Regional Studies.
  • Mayer, H., Hackler, D., and McFarland, C. (2007). Skills, Capital and Connections, too: A Regional Social Environment Perspective of Women Entrepreneurs. Canadian Journal of Regional Science.

Investing in Innovation

This report was released by the National Governors Association and the Pew Center on the States in July 2007. We examined how states are investing in research and development and found that states are pro-actively investing in research that solves pressing social problems (such as climate change) and grows their local economies. The report suggests six guidelines states should follow in designing R&D investment funds that work.

Fostering Emerging Technology Sectors in Arlington, Virginia

Heike Mayer examined the potential to foster emerging technology sectors in Arlington, Virginia. A separate report examined the economic development implications of the homeland security industry.

Signs of Life: The Growth of Biotech Centers in the U.S.

This study examined the biotech industry in the 51 largest U.S. metropolitan regions. We found that only 9 regions capture significant biotech research and commercialization activity. The study was conducted by Joseph Cortright, Impresa Inc., and Heike Mayer for the Brookings Institution.

High Tech Specialization: A Comparison of High Technology Centers

Joseph Cortright and Heike Mayer examined 14 high tech regions and found that each region specializes in certain industry segments.