Innovation and collaboration have long been hallmarks of the commercial software ecosystem, a $1 trillion marketplace that is a driving force in local software industries and the global knowledge economy. Microsoft has supported these thriving ecosystems through ongoing investments in a robust and affordable computing platform built around interoperability, partnerships and enhancing local capabilities.

On a global level and in communities worldwide, a network of 625,000 software, hardware and computer services firms create jobs, generate tax revenue, and spawn new innovations that stimulate economic growth throughout the economy. To further fuel innovation and the development of strong, self-sustaining local software industries, Microsoft is partnering with local governments, academic institutions, industry organizations and software and hardware vendors to expand its network of Microsoft Innovation Centers (MIC). Today these centers serve over 80 communities worldwide.

Microsoft and partners in each community work together to operate the MICs, which are centers open to students, professional software developers, IT professionals, entrepreneurs and academic researchers. While each Center tunes its programs to local needs, they all provide similar content and services designed to accelerate technology advances and stimulate local software economies through skills and professional training, industry partnerships and innovation. Primary areas of focus include:

Skills and Intellectual Capital: The Skills Accelerator focuses on intellectual capital and people enablement with software, business management and marketing courses, software development courses, and employment programs for students.

Industry Partnerships: The Partnership Accelerator focuses on enabling successful partnerships by connecting people and organizations in the innovation ecosystem. The MICs do this by offering programs on partnering with Microsoft, and by cultivating local and regional industry alliances that support the growth of software ‘industry clusters’ and software quality assurance programs.

Solutions and Innovation: The Innovation Accelerator focuses on enhancing local capacity for innovation through hands on engagements. This includes labs for ISVs, startups, partners, students, and entrepreneurs.

Particularly in developing regions, commercial software can be a sparkplug for long-term economic growth. In India, for example, the software industry contributed less than 1 percent of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2002, yet accounted for more than 10 percent of growth in total GDP. India’s software industry accounts for 8 percent of GDP and 30 percent of foreign exchange earnings. The UN’s Millennium Development Goals recognized the importance of the private sector in helping create sustainable and competitive local and national economies, and the Microsoft Innovation Centers are one important way Microsoft is participating in this effort. The results so far underscore the tremendous potential of the MICs:

Malaysia, Andy Siew Voon Long participated in a four-month internship at a Microsoft Innovation Center, where he learned how to work with powerful software development tools and was mentored by an experienced IT professional. From this experience, Andy started a software company that will soon be contributing to the local software economy and Malaysia’s economic growth.

Australia, Geoff Rohrsheim, managing director of a small but fast-growing systems integrator, leveraged the staff and resources of a Microsoft Innovation Center to design, build and test a software solution that his company – Strategic Data Management – has since turned into a product used by government agencies in South Australia.

Curitiba, Brazil - students, university professors and local software entrepreneurs use the center to test software prototypes, participate in seminars on emerging technologies, and prepare for jobs in Brazil’s fast-growing high-tech sector.

In 2010 alone, 7,500 students, IT professionals, developers and academics took part in technology labs, skills development, professional certification training, scholarships and research at 16 Microsoft Innovation Centers across Brazil. Since the Brazilian centers opened in 2002, more than 400 software projects and solutions have been developed around the XML open standard and other innovative technologies, in collaboration with 72 universities and numerous local governments and businesses.

“The Microsoft Innovation Center has helped us accelerate the development of new projects in a way that we never could before, due to lack of investment in IT and human resources,” said João Côrtez, chief technology officer of ATI, the state information technology agency in Pernambuco, Brazil.

For Rohrsheim, access to Microsoft technology experts and government subject matter experts proved invaluable in the development and testing of new products. So, too, did “showcase sessions” where small software companies like his, with limited marketing resources, were invited to present to government agencies. Partly through the assistance Rohrsheim received from the MIC, his company’s revenue has rapidly increased, and his staff has more than doubled in just a few years.

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