The Smartest Places on Earth Book Summary - The Smartest Places on Earth Book explained in key points
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The Smartest Places on Earth summary

Antoine van Agtmael and Fred Bakker

Why Rustbelts Are the Emerging Hotspots of Global Innovation

16 mins

Brief summary

"The Smartest Places on Earth" by Antoine van Agtmael and Fred Bakker explores the concept of "brainbelts" - places where industries, innovation, and talent converge to create economic growth. The authors examine different examples and offer insights into how cities can become smarter and more prosperous.

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    The Smartest Places on Earth
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    Former industrial sites are emerging as hubs of innovation to compete with emerging markets.

    Have you heard the term rustbelts? It refers to formerly industrial areas in the United States and Europe, places that have largely declined in affluence because of the offshoring of manufacturing to cheaper production sites in countries such as China, Bangladesh, Mexico and Turkey.

    But that’s all starting to change. Some of these rustbelt regions are transforming into brainbelts; regions that have been revitalized through the formation of hubs that unite knowledgeable workers with smart manufacturing. Just take the new production facility created by General Electric, an iconic company that produces aircraft engines and household appliances, among other products.

    Rather than offshoring their production to Asia, GE set up shop in Batesville, Mississippi because of its close proximity to Mississippi State University. In this new location, researchers work with cutting-edge materials to revolutionize the production of aircraft engines.

    GE had already been working with the university and, because of the great results the collaboration was producing, decided to become its neighbor. The choice has proven to be a boon to GE, as the work between the two institutions brings together innovation and smart manufacturing.

    However, just because some companies succeed with this model doesn’t mean that emerging markets in the East are no longer a threat; rather, these markets are just facing stiffer competition. For instance, many Western industrial powerhouses have had to close their doors, overwhelmed by the low-cost production model – built largely on cheap labor – employed in East Asian countries.

    That being said, the rise of brainbelts is causing concern for some Asian companies. Just consider the Taiwan-based Mediatek; for years, they’ve been a powerful force in the global marketplace, designing chipsets for smartphones and other such electronics.

    Despite this success, the company’s CFO, David Ku, has expressed grave concerns about the increasingly competitive nature of US firms. He pointed to the San Diego-based company Qualcomm as an example, saying that they’re way ahead of the game in terms of research and development.

    So, you now know why brainbelts are important. Next, you’ll learn how exactly they come about.

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    What is The Smartest Places on Earth about?

    The Smartest Places on Earth (2016) tells the story of former industrial powerhouse regions around the world that fell into decline but have since reemerged as centers of innovative collaborations. These blinks describe how countries in the West are using this model to challenge the cheap labor-oriented mass production model that has come to prominence elsewhere.

    Best quote from The Smartest Places on Earth

    Innovation is a marathon rather than a sprint.

    —Antoine van Agtmael and Fred Bakker
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    Who should read The Smartest Places on Earth?

    • Entrepreneurs everywhere
    • Business owners
    • Tech and innovation junkies

    About the Author

    Antoine van Agtmael is a senior advisor at the public policy advisory firm Garten Rothkopf, based in Washington, DC. A former financier, he coined the term “emerging markets” and founded the investment management firm Emerging Markets Management, LLC.

    Fred Bakker is a recently retired Dutch journalist and former CEO, as well as editor-in-chief of Het Financieele Dagblad, Holland’s equivalent of the Financial Times.

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