If one thing was clear at Tuesday’s Global Trade Summit at Brandeis International Business School (IBS) , it was that Massachusetts businesses are in a prime position for growth and opportunity in the constantly expanding global market.EMC Corp., pointed out in his opening remarks on Tuesday, globalization “isn’t 'coming' anymore—it’s here. And unless you have the smallest of businesses, and plan to keep it that way, you cannot afford to ignore it.”
State leaders understand that they have an important role in helping companies compete internationally.
In his keynote address, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick touted this week’s launch of the Massachusetts Export Resource Center, which he described as a “one-stop shop to help businesses take advantage of international opportunities.” He revealed that next week he will host Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, whose only other U.S. stop will be Washington, D.C. The visit is a direct result of the governor’s trade mission to Brazil in December. “I have made it my mission to make Massachusetts a global player in today’s innovation economy,” Patrick said.
For this year’s summit, we chose to focus on emerging markets in Brazil, India, Israel, and Turkey. Consul Generals rubbed shoulders with top executives; business, academic and government leaders engaged in deep discussions, continuing to strengthen relationships that are laying the foundation for economic success.
To help businesses—big and small—navigate new territory, I’d like to offer three key takeaways from the summit:
1. Leverage our innovation
Massachusetts is well-situated globally with its strengths in innovation sectors like life sciences, clean energy, and IT. Avner Halperin, CEO of EarlySense, an Israeli medical technology company that opened its first U.S. office in Waltham, praised the new Massachusetts-Israel Innovation Partnership, a grant program (PDF) established to promote collaborative research. Several Massachusetts agencies and the Israeli Office of the Chief Scientist have committed $2 million to the project.Massachusetts Life Sciences Center spoke about foreign companies’ attraction to partnerships with Massachusetts’ biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and diagnostics companies. “Massachusetts is known as ‘the supercluster’ for life sciences across the United States,” she said. Even if businesses are not in one of the state’s emblematic innovation industries, they can use the state’s reputation for innovation and research-oriented culture to open doors to international opportunities.
2. Academia is our state's calling card
Massachusetts boasts some of the world's top academic institutions, and much discussion at the summit revolved around the vital role they can play in our international outreach. Major corporations and government agencies cannot always devote resources to fostering concentrated discussion of global business issues, but universities are well-equipped to bring together individuals from various industries and tackle this particular brand of thought leadership.
Panelists discussed ways that academic exchange can catalyze new business opportunities. Governor Patrick spoke about the new TOP USA-Massachusetts Program, an initiative involving Brazilian and North American universities, including the University of Massachusetts. Ken Brown, executive director of the Massachusetts Office of International Trade and Investment, said it was the state's ability to leverage higher education in its economic strategy that most interested Brazilian officials during the governor's trade mission. Enver Yucel, chairman of the Istanbul-based Bahcesehir University, expressed excitement about Bahcesehir's new center for technology, innovation and entrepreneurship, which was unveiled at the Cambridge Innovation Center the day before the summit. “I believe innovative developments will be pioneered by education,” Yucel said through a translator.
3. Research, preparation, and timing are essential
It is easy to say that it's important to expand into exciting up-and-coming markets. But to be successful, a business needs to know how and when to move forward– as well as when to hold back. Although John Harthorne, CEO of MassChallenge, described many startup success stories, he noted that companies that don’t understand an emerging country’s culture or market conditions can burn through all their capital before achieving a return.
“You shouldn't be afraid of becoming an international company,” said Mitch Tyson, an adjunct professor at Brandeis IBS and co-founder of the New England Clean Energy Council, “but you have to pick your targets in the right order.” As the former CEO of Advanced Electron Beams, he recalled that the company’s success in Asian markets started in Taiwan, a country with engineers who had already received U.S. training on the necessary technologies. If his team hadn’t done its research and had kicked things off in a different country, the company may not have had sufficient momentum to grow in the region.
It was fitting that one of the summit's panels dealt with entrepreneurship, since the 21st century economy rewards an entrepreneurial spirit and a willingness to embrace the unfamiliar. As Brandeis IBS professor Chuck Reed put it: “Today, all businesses are global – whether they like it or not.”
Governor Patrick at the Summit:
Warren Leon is an Adjunct Professor at Brandeis International Business School and coordinates the school’s Global Green MBA program. In addition to serving as conference chair for the Global Trade Summit, he was lead author for "An International Strategy for Massachusetts" (2010), a report recommending ways for the state to expand exports and foreign direct investment.
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