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May 31, 2019

How do we continue to be disruptive innovators? How do we push to the future of innovation? Demographics are not likely the first place people look to when trying to understand innovation, but there is theory and discussion that tells us that much can be learned from looking at economics through the lens of demography. Expert Richard Florida believes that geographic proximity and cultural diversity—a place’s openness to different cultures, religions, sexual orientations—also play key roles in economic growth. Richard is a world-renowned writer and journalist, having penned several global best sellers, including the award winning The Rise of the Creative Class and his most recent book, The New Urban Crisis. A 2013 MIT study named him the world’s most influential thought leader and TIME magazine has recognized his Twitter feed as one of the 140 most influential in the world. Richard says, “Every single human being is creative. The biggest challenge of the creative age is to lift the bottom up and encourage a prosperous, vibrant and sustainable community for all.”

Richard points to the work of economists Quamrul Ashraf of Williams College and Oded Galor of Brown University as further support of his theories. Their work concludes that the interplay between cultural assimilation and cultural diffusion have played a significant role in giving rise to differential patterns of economic development across the globe." To put it simply: diversity spurs economic development and homogeneity slows it down.

So, basically, more people means more ideas. A larger population will produce more ideas to feed technological progress. And, simultaneously, population only increases if there is technological development.

Our guest, Audrey Russo, is an impassioned thought leader about technology and demographics being codependent drivers of the Pittsburgh economy and the success of the technologies that are developed here.

Since 2007, Audrey Russo has served the technology business sector for southwestern PA as President and CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council the oldest (1983) and largest technology trade association in North America. In her role as president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council, Audrey Russo oversees an organization of 1,400 member companies and 270,000 member employees. She works to position Pittsburgh as one of the nation’s leading centers for technology, health care, advanced materials, life sciences, homeland security and financial services.

Ten years ago, Audrey wrote about the importance of demographics and poised a challenge for Pittsburgh to add 5,000 people to the region each year — net positive. While also focusing on an effort to retain 20% of Pittsburgh’s college students here year over year. She asked all Pittsburghers to take a pact to make the region a place where regional citizenship means all students are part of the fabric of all companies.

Russo is committed to the complexity of Pittsburgh’s physical, literal and metaphorical terrain, and believes that vital cities are the moral imperative in achieving competitive, diverse and vibrant economies. Let’s talk to her about this innovation and population going hand in hand.