Published Online:https://doi.org/10.5465/amd.2018.0014

A recent understudied phenomenon has emerged, whereby public institutions are collectively taking on an expanded role in technological innovation by offering resource, policy, and infrastructure support even when the trajectories of these technologies are unclear. We term this phenomenon as government experimentation. Scholarship has tended to examine national efforts, yet local governments are in an ideal position to tailor programs to the local market context, given their proximity. Nevertheless, we have a limited understanding regarding how local institutions experiment. The aims of this article are twofold. First, we outline our methodological approach for building a unique dataset that classifies the portfolio of U.S. state government technology-based economic development policies from 2000 to 2015. We turn to the State Science and Technology Institute as the primary data source. Among the set of 1,659 state-led actions, we classify the context, topic, and lever. Second, we offer descriptive and comparative analyses of this local government experimentation. In considering the spread of each state’s policy portfolio, we highlight four distinct experimental archetypes—hub specialists, public entrepreneurs, industry architects, and ecosystem designers. Finally, we consider theoretical, managerial, policy, and methodological implications that could be derived from our characterization of this phenomenon of local government experimentation.

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