Stanford and Silicon Valley: Lessons on Becoming a High-Tech Region

by Stephen Adams

Fall 2005

Volume 48
Issue 1

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What role should the academic anchor play in the development of a high-tech region? Based on analysis of historical data and archival documents, this article explores the question by looking at an illuminating case, the relationship between Stanford University and Silicon Valley, the quintessential high-tech entrepreneurial region. During the Valley’s crucial formative years (1945–1965), Stanford had four principal programs of outreach to the local business community. In each case, Stanford’s default mode of industrial outreach was to seek satellite operations of established firms based elsewhere (such as Lockheed), while its assistance to indigenous firms (and start-ups) was ancillary at best. For those trying to establish a high-tech region elsewhere, the lesson may be not to try to replicate Silicon Valley’s contemporary university-industry relationship and the central role of entrepreneurship. The Valley’s formative years offer a different model for the contributions of an academic anchor to the development of a high-tech region.

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