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A Strategy for American Innovation - Invest in the Building Blocks of American Innovation

A Strategy for American Innovation - Invest in the Building Blocks of American Innovation






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  • Full Name Full Name Comment goes here.
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  • I am an independent inventor in the cleantech space, and a Patent Agent. So please allow me to suggest three steps, which would cost nothing and would each have a big impact on cleantech small business development in America:

    1. Create a new class called “microbusiness” for companies having fewer than 20 employees.

    Startups account for most job creation, and it seems logical that the focus in the cleantech project should be on new companies with loose organizational ties among participants who are building a business from which they may hope to receive a paycheck and an equity stake. So the question becomes, how to separate the startups from the other companies that might apply for assistance.

    The federal government defines a “small business” as one having fewer than 500 employees. That is not a startup. A company with 499 employees can afford to pay a wage to full-time principal investigators on grants (an SBIR requirement) and clerical workers whose only job is to keep up with the federal government's reporting requirements.

    Startups should not be treated the same as companies with 499 employees. There needs to be a new category, established by executive order, called “microbusiness” which will include companies having fewer than 20 employees. Such a definition would be implemented in departmental regulations. The intent would be to set aside a protected class for grant applications and other technology development, patent fees, tax relief/deferment, and federally-mandated paperwork.

    Microbusinesses should be exempt from patent “maintenance fees” and “issue fees” which are basically just taxes and tantamount to punishment for inventors. There is no good reason for such exactions. The money does not go to improve the Patent Office, but is just another revenue stream disappearing into the deficit. At least keep the fee revenue in the Patent Office to pay for its budget and the extra examiners needed to dig out of the backlog of patent applications.

    Federal paperwork is another burden that should be lifted from startups (microbusiness). If the priority is job creation, then data collection, payroll taxes, etc. etc. should be waived in the case of companies that are just getting started. Tax collection from startups should not be a revenue model.

    Cost-sharing requirements for grants should be eliminated for microbusinesses. ARPA-E, which was supposed to be for radical innovation in energy, is not accessible to microbusinesses because of their 20% cost-sharing requirement. ARPA-E only funds a few projects, all of them big. It needs to fund a lot of small projects instead, with no cost sharing. These will be the truly new ideas.

    2. Mission-driven research should informed by thorough and transparent technology assessment.

    To decide what the mission is, with technical specificity, it will be necessary to collect an interactive and accessible database of technology assessment. The GAO found that the Department of Energy, unlike NASA and other technical agencies, lacks such a system. Therefore it should come as no surprise that cleantech in America is stalled. Do a wiki and a blog on the relevant class/subclass (the Patent Office's Manual of Classification could provide the subject headings for technical discussion). Encourage the invention of new solutions by offering prizes. The monetary amount of the prize is not as important as the official validation of the federal government beyond the mere grant of a patent. With validation, the invention has a chance of surviving the Valley of Death. Now, if anything, the federal government is discouraging. There is even a DOE document, styled “Notice of Discouragement.” This accompanies a rejection letter on an ARPA-E grant application.

    The ARPA-E program is not accessible to startups because of the 20% cost-sharing requirement (for a project budgeted at $1 million, the applicant has to put up $200,000). The grant project should be done at federal facilities if it is truly new and, if validated by a proof-of-concept prototype, could be an important and scalable step forward. Any company that can put up the ARPA-E cost-sharing (they fund only a few projects, all big) is not a startup, so this is looks more like corporate welfare.

    3. The national security implications of cleantech development should be considered along with the economy.

    Projecting American technical competence in building for peace will improve our national security. Technology for deployable clean water, clean air, and reliable electricity should be as important as new bombs. General Tony Zinni is well-aware of this aspect of military power for winning the hearts and minds. He is also familiar with the limitations of stovepiped management structures, such as what is impeding our cleantech progress.

    I nominate General Zinni to supervise the effort to organize our resources to accomplish our mission. It will take someone of his executive ability.
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  • Strategies? Many. But there’s a few that I think need near term addressing;

    1. College Tuition
    It is out of control. Our young men and women can not get good education, simply because they cannot afford to. Only the very rich can afford solid education. What is wrong with this picture?

    2. Frivolous Patents
    The items that are being patented, and then being leveraged for financial gain - it’s ridiculous. There is a place for patents, but the current system does little but generate greed and stifle competition.

    3. Technology Standards
    I am a programmer myself, and many those in my profession share this angst. E.g., if we write a web application, we have to recode or branch for the many specific web browsers out there. It’s a constant waste of cycles.

    4. Financial Institutions as hotbeds of technology
    I admit bias, as I work for one - but I have to say, we have had more than our our fair share of blame of in the past years. Some justified yes, but we quickly become the scapegoat. But it is in this financial enterprise environment that some of the brightest and innovative technology minds thrive. And while the likes of consumer facing orgs such as Google and Apple get their well deserved recognition, it does not appear to be understood by many that some of the most progressive technology work occurs within the financial technology.
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  • 1) A 3% GDP investment in R&D sounds good, but the effectiveness of this plan will be in the execution ...any details?
    2) It takes many years if not decades for scientific discoveries to become new technology and then more years to become useful and competitive products. This is especially true for cross-discipline technology. How do you plan to shorten this process? That is, what is your plan for tech transition?
    3) I applaud the focus on math and science education. However I fear you are conflating STEM performance with equality and civil rights. Equality of talent and opportunity is a nice thought; however our competitors won’t base policy on this sort of wishful thinking. Our kids with STEM talent are like a precious resource. Miners know that the odds of producing gold are better if they mine along an established vein. You are better off investing more heavily in schools that are proven effective and located around STEM talent bases. You must then trust that the economic rewards of science, technology and product dominance will advantage every American.
    4) Any details on the National Infrastructure Bank?
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  • Imagine a new RAW MATERIAL, imagine a facsimili of CORN for ethanol production, imagine 12 industries from THIS raw material, imagine in 3 years 150,000 people working on all levels, imagine a Raw Material that is also industrialized in Peru, in Argentina, could be in Sudan, just imagine it and then read mesquiteyesterdaytodayandtomorrow.blogspot.com and then call me, not because you and your buddies could not do it alone, but because I could save you a few years in getting started.
    Saludos Salud Suerte
    George Bain
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  • Want a skilled, innovative and entrepreneurial citizenry for the 21st century to help America compete?

    Start a school focused on tech and entrepreneurship!

    That’s what we did in Chicago. Chicago Tech Academy High School (chicagotechacademy.org) is now finishing it’s second year. We have 200 students who, each and every day, are learning the skills and aptitudes to be 21st century leaders. Tech leaders and entrepreneurs from Chicago and beyond (last year Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO visited) support and mentor our students.

    Our students learn skills like programming, networking and design; they participate in mentoring and job shadow programs in technology that make education relevant; and tie it all together with a focus on college preparation and entrepreneurship.

    While still in its start-up phase, we are encouraged by the outcomes: our attendance rates consistently exceed district-averages, with over 90% of students in school every day, 50% of our students test at or above national norms on college readiness standards, and every day our students dream a little bigger about the future they can build.

    Learn more:


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