Mary Walshok is an author, educator, researcher and an associate Vice Chancellor at the University of California San Diego (UCSD). She is an industrial sociologist and has published six books and over 100 articles and reports on regional innovation, the role of research institutions in regional economies and workforce development. As if this was not enough, Walshok is also an international member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA), and much more! A very impressive resume, indeed. She also happens to be part of the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce San Diego’s Advisory Board.
In October Walshok was not only invited to Stockholm to receive a gold medal from Crown Prince Daniel, but also to London’s Buckingham Palace at the invitation of Prince Andrew . Prince Andrew is patron of the Northern Ireland Science Park, where Walshok is a member. After her first two stops in Europe Walshok continued on to Muscat, Oman, where Walshok interacted with the Sultan of Oman as a member of his technology and innovation advisory board. Talk about royal treatment!
Walshok has deep Swedish connections. Her father is from the capital city of Sweden, Stockholm and her mother is from Arboga. They immigrated separately to the United States after World War I, ended up in California and got married here. However, it is more than her Swedish roots that made her deserved a gold medal of IVA and the Royal Order of the Polar Star (a Swedish order of chivalry, rewarded to foreign citizens and Swedish Royal family for their services to Sweden, their devotion to duty, science, literary, etc.).
Walshok is the co-founder of CONNECT San Diego, and as a result she was invited to spend six weeks in Sweden in the early 1990’s. She visited incubators and programs dedicated to support technology based companies. A couple of years later, a delegation from IVA planned a trip to California primarily to visit the Silicon Valley. However, because of the report Walshok had written about Sweden when she was visiting the country, the delegation decided to add two more days on their trip to come down to San Diego.
Here in San Diego, Walshok and her team introduced the delegation to UCSD, the existing programs, and especially for the very successful CONNECT. The night before the delegation was headed back to Sweden, Christian Zetterberg the CEO of Volvo and the head of the delegation, talked about the similarities between Sweden and San Diego. The delegation discovered that the city and model most appropriate to Sweden, is the city and model of San Diego. In comparison to Silicon Valley, San Diego was a late bloomer when it came to its innovation economy, but it was still a very effective one. The same was true about Sweden, in comparison to Germany in Europe.
The delegation discovered that the city and model most appropriate to Sweden, is the city and model of San Diego.
That was the start of an over 20-years relationship between Walshok and Sweden. Fifteen years after co-founding CONNECT San Diego, Walshok was part of founding CONNECT Sweden as well. Using the same model as in San Diego, bringing together business, technology and leaders, Sweden was growing their regional CONNECT program as well.
At the same time Walshok was a visiting professor at the Stockholm School of Economics, teaching in entrepreneurship and innovation.
As for now, with two medals from Sweden and the royal international treatment, Walshok has also recently published the book Oxford Handbook of Local Competitiveness with fellow authors David Audretch and Albert Link. The book is a collection of case studies of local economies that are going thorough transformation and change.
Walshok has been, and still is, a big contributor to many regional economies around the world. Through research she tries to answer questions like: why is it that some regions are doing better than others, when it comes to their economy? When we talked to her, she asked, “Why is it that Sweden is doing better than any other European country, and why is it that California is doing better than any other American state? Why? What is this country and this region doing right? And where might the future lie when it comes to global innovation?”
“Why? What are we doing right? And where might the future lie when it comes to global innovation?”
She continues, “The United States of America is a big country and the states are very different compared to each other. When it comes to an economic point of view, some states look like Greece [year 2015], others could be Germany in the 1940’s – it’s very different across the states.”
The Swedish American Chamber of Commerce San Diego is very proud to have this successful and highly thought-of researcher in our Advisory Board and we wish her all the luck for her future work in the field of sociology, entrepreneurship and innovation!