University-based Research

Decades of research.

Real-world case examples. 

Driving research into action, on a regional level.

Our thesis

The Venture Attractor believes that successful long-term, intergenerational economic development spurs from intentionally developing and leveraging a specific industry cluster has existing natural assets and amenities. The regional environment, in the sense of both the physical and business environment, must be capable of naturally supporting a particular cluster’s growth. 


We also believe that the development of a nascent industry cluster begins with innovative startups. By driving activities relating to attracting, supporting and retaining innovative startups, a vibrant startup ecosystem will emerge and organically lead to the long-term goal of regional cluster formation.

The Venture Attractor is focused on the following complementary clusters in Colorado Springs, CO:

Sports & Outdoors | Health Innovation | Human Performance



Venture attractor research

The Venture Attractor is a university-based research initiative, based on interdisciplinary research on the fundamental drivers of cluster-based economic development. The research behind the Venture Attractor is derived from scholars in entrepreneurship, regional economic development, industry clusters, location theory, and others.  


This collection of work points to the intergenerational impact of industry cluster development and nurturance in regions where there is a natural and enduring cluster affinity. The research aggregated here is designed to help those interested in the Venture Attractor and in economic development generally to achieve a deeper understanding of the decades of scholarship underlying this initiative. 

    Research director’s
    original work

    Research supporting the venture attractor concept is voluminous and multi-disciplinary. By now, most economic development professionals are familiar with the concept of industry clusters and their potential to transform regional economies. Examples of such transformational impact abound: from Silicon Valley and Branson, Missouri in the United States to the Champagne region of France and Italy’s Prato (wool), India’s Bangalore (software), and Japan’s Silicon Island in Kyushu.  


    The following original work is by Thomas N. Duening, PhD, the Research Director for the Venture Attractor.  


    Simple Rules for Regional Economic Development 

    The economic challenges faced by nations and regions during the first decades of the 21st century have served to increase the intensity of efforts to ignite economic growth.  The interest in understanding how to create economic growth has been further heightened by the dramatic reductions in public budgets over the past several years.  It simply is no longer acceptable for public officials to invest in projects that do not have the potential for generating positive returns on investment.  With money tight, once popular investments in “high tech” or “clean tech” or “bio tech” no longer make sense if the expected payoff is not generated within reasonable time horizons.


    Startups and Industry Clusters: 

    Most cities of any size in the United States today are striving to understand the causal factors behind the emergence of entrepreneurial clusters.  Most aspire to becoming the next new venture hotspot.  The point of this article is to emphasize the likely evolution of a regional entrepreneurial culture, and to provide an antidote to overanxious folks who believe that it should have happened yesterday. 


    The Origin of Industry Clusters: 

    Economic development specialists are familiar with the concept of industry clusters. Of course, the question left unaddressed is: “How do clusters get started?” 


    What do we know about the origin of clusters? Fortunately, scholars have begun to investigate the key factors involved in cluster emergence and growth. The research has revealed that entrepreneurs and economic development specialists play vital roles in creating a virtuous cycle of growth.    

    The Many Benefits of Local Venture Capital: 

    Private equity capital has several beneficial effects on the venture community that go far beyond providing fuel to grow. Primarily, private equity capital introduces a “return on investment” mindset and sense of urgency that no other resource, strategic plan, or well-intended politician can introduce. 


    The injection of capital into a venture, and into an entrepreneurial community, creates discipline and maturity that simply cannot otherwise be developed.   



    curated research

    How Clusters Emerge and Grow

    Canadian Cluster Handbook Highlights Cluster Emergence and Growth Factors

    The Canadian Cluster Handbook, produced by the Institute for Competitiveness & Prosperity, provides insight into how industry clusters emerge and grow. In particular, the report notes that “clusters cannot be created… They emerge from pre-existing conditions.” Among the pre-existing conditions important to cluster emergence are: co-location of actors, existing industrial strengths, and specialized knowledge of talent and suppliers. The report also indicates that cluster actors (for profits, non-profits, universities, and others) collaborate better when they formally organize. It recommends a “cluster manager” that is charged with implementing a cluster strategy. Think of the EPIIC Venture Attractor as such a cluster manager. 


      University Roles in Clusters

      Korean Study Finds Universities Vital to Cluster Talent Pool

      A study undertaken in South Korea examined the role of “universities and research institutes” (URIs) in industry cluster development. The investigators found that URIs played an important role, but not the expected role. That is to say, they found that technology transfer was not a major contributing factor to cluster development. Rather, their contribution was “indirect and through the preparation of high-quality graduates”.  


        Entrepreneurial Ecosystems and Clusters

        A Classic Definition of Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

        A study financed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and published in 2014 has provided a classic definition of “entrepreneurial ecosystem”: 


        “A set of interconnected entrepreneurial actors (both potential and existing), entrepreneurial organizations (e.g. firms, venture capitalists, business angels, banks), institutions (universities, public sector agencies, financial bodies) and entrepreneurial processes (e.g. the business birth rate, numbers of high growth firms, levels of ‘blockbuster entrepreneurship’, number of serial entrepreneurs, degree of sellout mentality within firms and levels of entrepreneurial ambition) which formally and informally coalesce to connect, mediate and govern the performance within the local entrepreneurial environment. (p. 5) 


          Accelerators as Start-up Infrastructure for Entrepreneurial Clusters 

          A Startup Infrastructure for Entrepreneurial Clusters Must Include “Community Capital”

          Research conducted by Bliemel, et al., (2018) highlighted the various elements of what they refer to as “community capital”. While their research centered on venture accelerators as a source of community capital, the EPIIC Venture Attractor will provide most of the same range of services, but will not offer capital. It seems worthwhile to highlight here the various elements of community capital as related by the investigators. 


            connect and discuss

            For those interested in gathering more information about industry clusters and the role of startups in their formation, growth, and maintenance, we are sharing research that we’ve already conducted and published, publicly available related research, and more. 

             Please let us know if there is any research into which you have questions or would like to receive additional information. 

              Interested in the Colorado Springs Venture Attractor Boot-Up Camp?