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EcoMap Trend Report

At EcoMap, our mission is to illuminate the organizations, resources, people, opportunity and activity in complex ecosystems. By increasing the visibility of information, we power gains in accessibility and transparency. This report is the first in a series of quarterly updates where we’ll shine a light on critical trends across industries, institutions, and systems influencing networks throughout the country (and world).

2024 Ecosystem Trend Report

Ecosystems are ever-changing and evolving. Ecosystems are influenced by both hyper-local changes and global developments and trends. At EcoMap, our mission is to illuminate the organizations, resources, people, opportunity and activity in complex ecosystems. By increasing the visibility of information, we improve accessibility and transparency. This report is the first in a series of quarterly updates where we’ll shine a light on critical trends across industries, institutions, and systems influencing networks throughout the country (and world). We’ll provide a snapshot of the latest advances in technology, economic development, innovation ecosystems, and more, to help communities understand the forces shaping the future, and how to best take advantage of the moment.

In this first report, we’ll explore the rapidly evolving AI landscape, and how these technological changes coupled with post-pandemic workforce, federal investments, and metropolitan regional population and industry shifts are playing out on the ground.  

Keeping up with the pace of AI

Artificial intelligence has arrived into the daily lives of businesses and consumers alike in the U.S., transforming the office and the home into dynamic spaces where the technology’s opportunities and challenges are playing out in real time. The economic impact of AI has continued to accelerate, with global spending on artificial intelligence solutions projected to reach over $297 billion by 20271. This past year alone, AI startups around the world raised over $42 billion in funding, with the U.S. positioned as the market leader.2 Investor and market interest in AI has been largely driven by increased attention around generative AI software, which exploded into the mainstream consciousness when large language models (LLMs) such as ChatGPT were made accessible to consumers in late 2022.3

Organizations are excited by the possibility of increased employee efficiency driven by the automation of repetitive or routine tasks that free up employee time for higher-value work requiring creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving. Research from McKinsey Global Institute suggests that automation could result in increases to global productivity growth by up to 1.4% annually.4 Eager to access these benefits, companies are aggressively pursuing ways to incorporate AI tools into their existing business practices. Over half of organizations surveyed by Deloitte in 2023 reported that they had authorized access to generative AI for at least a small portion of their employee workforce.5

And public opinion data reveals that workers are becoming increasingly comfortable with such technologies – in some cases, initial fears about job displacement have given way to optimism. In fact, U.S. workers in industries especially exposed to AI impacts are more likely to believe that AI will help them rather than hurt them personally.6 Despite the increasing familiarity and capacity among employees who are learning to integrate AI tools into their everyday workflows, concerns surrounding the technology’s ethical and privacy considerations endure. 53% of Americans report interacting with AI-powered devices and services in their daily lives, yet both consumers and business leaders express worries about the technology’s impacts and use, including potential bias and exacerbation of economic inequality.7 Public opinion polls indicate an overwhelming majority of Americans and tech experts support government regulation.8

On an organizational level, one of the biggest challenges for companies amid this rapid scale-up of technology is a critical gap in technical skills. Respondents to Deloitte’s 2023 GenAI survey, identify the lack of technical talent as the single biggest barrier to successful integration of AI, and more than half of organizations admit that they are not undertaking sufficient AI education efforts for their employees.9 Upskilling and reskilling employees will be increasingly important for companies to be able to truly leverage these quickly progressing technologies. As more industries explore and adopt AI solutions to meet their needs, many companies will be under increasing pressure to become “tech companies”. And, as the pace of technological innovation continues to accelerate, skills gaps will likely grow, especially without concerted and continuous high-quality training efforts. 

The economic impact of AI has continued to accelerate, with global spending on artificial intelligence solutions projected to reach over $297 billion by 2027. This past year alone, AI startups around the world raised over $42 billion in funding, with the U.S. positioned as the market leader.

Workforce for a new age

Workforce and education ecosystems are impacted by demands for targeted skills and competencies. These demands are not just coming from employers; in an era of soaring costs of education and economic uncertainty, students are increasingly discerning consumers seeking meaningful experiences that offer a return on their investment. Vocational and technical training programs continue to expand at community colleges and educational institutions, providing students with industry-recognized certifications and credentials across fields. Apprenticeships, which center on-the-ground professional training, have grown nearly 64% nationwide since 2012, with over 14,700 registered new programs created within a five-year period. 10

Higher education institutions are modeling potential answers for the sizeable upskilling needs of rapidly evolving industries through the popularization of alternative credentials, such as digital badges or micro-credential programs. Through short, “stackable” courses that focus on specific competency-based trainings, micro-credential programs aim to provide a simple way to recognize and validate technical skill attainment and encourage continuous learning. While this trend continues to accelerate, many programs are challenged by a lack of standardization and clarity around outcome evaluation metrics. Still, despite this uncertainty, in a 2023 University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) survey of employers across industries, 68% of respondents indicated that they would be interested in collaborating with a college on alternative credential initiatives.11

Cross-sector partnerships between the private sector and higher education have found fertile ground before, especially in the rise of university innovation centers or hubs, a trend that has dramatically taken off in the last seven years. Designed to connect faculty, students, researchers, and industry partners in spaces fostering creativity, multidisciplinary collaboration, and hands-on learning, these hubs respond to the shifting ambitions of graduates: over 50% of undergraduate and graduate students surveyed in 2021 reported plans to pursue entrepreneurship within five years of their graduation.12 These graduates are preparing to enter an economic landscape that is still undergoing dramatic reshapings four years out from the start of the pandemic, and is set to see more transformations driven by industry acceleration and unprecedented federal investment.

Ecosystem-level investments and transformation

2021 and 2022 saw historic infusions of federal funding through legislation packages that aimed to improve US economic competitiveness, research and development, and industrial productivity. The Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law together introduce $2 trillion in federal spending over the next ten years and demonstrate big bets on place-based, ecosystem-level economic development approaches.

These new market booms are not just reshaping ecosystems around the country, but are in fact, driven by a recognition that an ecosystem approach is key to envisioning, planning for, and driving future growth.

New migration patterns have already prompted significant changes to ecosystems across the country, spurred by the pandemic, a sustained increase in hybrid work, and rising costs of living. Major coastal cities such as New York, DC, and LA that have long served as economic hubs for educated U.S. workers are experiencing a drain of white collar workers to less expensive metros. The influx of high earners into cities like Houston, Charlotte, and Phoenix has helped position secondary markets, especially in the country’s Sun Belt region, for significant growth. Research by Brookings shows that the tech industry, which has historically been concentrated in West Coast enclaves, has undergone dramatic geographic shifts as tech employment has surged in “newcomer” cities such as Nashville, Miami, and Salt Lake City.13 Between 2020 and 2022, the traditional tech fortresses of San Francisco and San Jose actually saw their relative shares of the nation’s tech employment decline, in comparison to more expansive growth in secondary and tertiary metro areas markets.14

Specialized industry clusters, such as semiconductor chip production, are also powering the rise of up-and-coming metro areas, as policymakers hope to bring about a domestic manufacturing renaissance through a suite of federal incentives. The passage of the CHIPS and Science Act in 2022 has led to projections that the US will triple its domestic semiconductor manufacturing capacity within ten years.15 This massive industry growth is driven by capital investments into newly-designated National Workforce Hubs such as upstate New York, which will receive over $6 billion as part of the legislation, directed to chip manufacturing facilities. 16Meanwhile, Intel is on track to build the largest single manufacturing site in the world with a $20 billion investment into two semiconductor plants in Columbus, Ohio, with company leadership noting that the city’s central location makes it possible “to create an ecosystem across the entire [Midwest] region”.17 These new market booms are not just reshaping ecosystems around the country, but are in fact, driven by a recognition that an ecosystem approach is key to envisioning, planning for, and driving future growth.

As business leaders and policymakers increasingly adopt an ecosystem approach to catalyze transformative possibilities, it is more important than ever to understand and map the deep connections, networks, and assets that define your environment. At EcoMap, we curate data about your ecosystem into easy-to-use platforms and tools. We’re on a singular mission to make every ecosystem accessible to everyone, everywhere. If you or your organization are interested in better understanding, visualizing, and connecting your ecosystem in this dynamic world, we’d love to connect.

If you liked what you heard and want to stay engaged, stay tuned for future editions of the Ecosystem Trend Report. Until next time, ecosystem change agents.


 

Developed in collaboration with Francesca Ioffreda, CEO of Breakthrough Strategy Partners.

  1. https://www.cdomagazine.tech/aiml/global-ai-spending-to-reach-297-billion-by-2027-read-full-report ↩︎
  2. https://www.cbinsights.com/research/report/ai-trends-2023/ ↩︎
  3. https://www.goldmansachs.com/intelligence/pages/ai-investment-forecast-to-approach-200-billion-globally-by-2025.html ↩︎
  4. https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Business%20Functions/McKinsey%20Digital/Our%20Insights/Driving%20impact%20at%20scale%20from%20automation%20and%20AI/Driving-impact-at-scale-from-automation-and-AI.ashx#:~:text=Based%20on%20our%20scenario%20modeling,activities%20rather%20than%20entire%20occupations. ↩︎
  5. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/consulting/us-state-of-gen-ai-report-q2.pdf ↩︎
  6. https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2023/07/26/which-u-s-workers-are-more-exposed-to-ai-on-their-jobs/#:~:text=Workers%20seem%20more%20hopeful%20than,more%20than%20hurt%20them%20personally. ↩︎
  7. https://www.deloitte.com/global/en/about/press-room/gen-ai-survey.html ↩︎
  8. https://www.mitre.org/news-insights/news-release/mitre-harris-poll-finds-lack-trust-among-americans-ai-technology ↩︎
  9. https://www.deloitte.com/global/en/about/press-room/gen-ai-survey.html ↩︎
  10. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/apprenticeship/about/statistics/2021 ↩︎
  11. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2023/03/03/microcredentials-confuse-employers-colleges-and-learners ↩︎
  12. https://www.guesssurvey.org/resources/PDF_InterReports/GUESSS_2021_Global_Report.pdf ↩︎
  13. https://www.brookings.edu/articles/tech-jobs-are-finally-spreading-out-spurred-by-private-investment-and-federal-initiatives/ ↩︎
  14. https://www.brookings.edu/articles/tech-jobs-are-finally-spreading-out-spurred-by-private-investment-and-federal-initiatives/ ↩︎
  15. https://www.semiconductors.org/america-projected-to-triple-semiconductor-manufacturing-capacity-by-2032-the-largest-rate-of-growth-in-the-world/ ↩︎
  16. https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-hochul-celebrates-biden-administrations-61-billion-investment-micron-grow ↩︎
  17. https://columbusregion.com/content-hub-article/intel-in-columbus/ ↩︎

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