Pour more funds into basic research. Open up federal data stores. Ramp up technical skills education. Open up export markets. And most of all, unshackle and boost the entrepreneur. These are some of the recommendations in a new report on innovation issued by the US Department of Commerce, in consultation with the National Economic Council.
The Competitive and Innovative Capacity of the United States outlines 10 key action items that policymakers need to undertake or support. The underlying assumption is that it's up to government action and oversight to make innovation happen. Government can get out of the way or lay the foundation for competitiveness. But there also needs to be more recognition that innovation is something somewhat messy and failure-prone that arises from the grassroots as well, by inspired -- or discontented -- entrepreneurs, professionals and rainmakers both outside and inside organizations. Often, it's people going against the grain, against the best-laid plans of policymakers, and even against their own corporate managers' wishes.
Nevertheless, it helps to have a macro-environment that encourages or supports greater innovation. Here are the report's 10 action items:
1. Continue to support government funding for basic research: "For the United States to maintain a leadership role in innovation, it is critically important that the Federal government continue its support for basic research. Also, since quality scientific education and scientific advances take many years, investments in research should be stable to improve career prospects of new science doctorates and to encourage younger students to choose science as a career."
2. Enhance and extend the R&D tax credit: "Although the Federal government’s role in R&D is crucial, private R&D investment remains important and a simplified, enhanced, and extended corporate R&D tax credit would create the proper incentives for private industry to undertake the risks associated with R&D spending."
3. Speed the movement of ideas from basic science labs to commercial application: "Entrepreneurs can find it difficult to get early‐stage funding for their ideas. Other barriers to commercialization exist, such as lack of business experience on the part of would‐be entrepreneurs. 'Proof of Concept' centers can help overcome this barrier by supporting entrepreneurs at all stages of the development process and these centers need further encouragement."
4. Address Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) shortcomings: "Poor STEM participation and performance in the nation’s schools must be remedied, as students are leaving secondary schools poorly trained to continue studying in STEM fields. One avenue to address these problems is initiatives such as “Educate to Innovate,” public‐private partnerships that expand STEM education to all students, particularly those of underrepresented groups, through interactive games and other methods."
5. Increase spectrum for wireless communications: "The United States faces a spectrum crunch in the coming years, which could severely constrain innovation. The goals set by the “National Wireless Initiative,” include doubling the amount of spectrum available for wireless broadband services and helping rural areas gain access to wireless broadband services."
6. Increase access to data to help spur innovation: "Open access to data is a crucial component of a successful innovation policy, and steps taken to encourage this include the launch of data.gov, a platform that provides public access to valuable datasets; an initiative to simplify access to high value data by, for example, creating standards; and the use of challenges and prizes to bring together communities of innovators to help spur new technologies. These efforts need to be continued and expanded."
7. Coordinate Federal support for manufacturing: "For the manufacturing sector to reverse its decline, it is vital to continue funding and supporting manufacturing specific programs like NIST’s MEP, SelectUSA, and the individual pieces of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership."
8. Continue and strengthen efforts to foster regional clusters and entrepreneurship: "Evidence shows that regional innovation clusters increase jobs and wages. Multiple efforts are already under way within the Federal government to promote and encourage entrepreneurship and clusters and these efforts must continue.... To encourage entrepreneurs, the Startup America initiative is increasing access to capital and facilitating mentorships and the Startup America Partnership has launched an online network that provides entrepreneurs access to valuable resources from dozens of companies. Efforts like these will need continued support in the years ahead in order to ensure entrepreneurs have the resources they need to help drive innovation."
9. Promote America’s exports and improve access to foreign markets: "It is vital that U.S. businesses have fair and open access to foreign markets. ...the United States is participating in the Trans‐Pacific Partnership negotiations, a free trade agreement with key partners in the Asia‐Pacific region. This agreement, when finalized, will be a significant step forward as it not only addresses traditional trade issues, but also includes regulatory harmonization, trade and investment in innovative products and services (including digital technologies), and mechanisms to ensure state‐owned enterprises compete fairly with private companies."
10. Ensure that the conditions exist in which private enterprise can thrive: "The private sector is the engine of innovation in the United States and it is crucial that both established firms and entrepreneurs in the private sector have the best possible environment in which to innovate. To this end, areas that should be the focus of attention in the United States in the years ahead include reforming the corporate tax system, and ensuring that the intellectual property system continues to function in a way that encourages growth."
(Photo: US Department of Commerce.)
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com