invest in the Building Blocks                     of American innovation“Competition [in the global economy] is going to b...
A S T r AT e g y f o r A m e r i C A n i n n ovAT i o ncampaign harnesses public-private partnerships to improve K-12 STEM...
i n v e S T i n T h e B u i ld i n g B l o C k S o f A m e r i C A n i n n ovAT i o nStrengthen and broaden American leade...
A S T r AT e g y f o r A m e r i C A n i n n ovAT i o nDevelop the next generation of air traffic controlThe Next Generati...
i n v e S T i n T h e B u i ld i n g B l o C k S o f A m e r i C A n i n n ovAT i o nSecure cyberspaceThe National Securit...
A Strategy for American Innovation - Invest in the Building Blocks of American Innovation
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A Strategy for American Innovation - Invest in the Building Blocks of American Innovation


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

  1. 1. invest in the Building Blocks of American innovation“Competition [in the global economy] is going to be much more fierceand the winners of this competition will be the countries that havethe most educated workers, a serious commitment to research andtechnology, and access to quality infrastructure like roads and airportsand high-speed rail and high-speed Internet. Those are the seeds ofeconomic growth in the 21st century. Where they are planted, the mostjobs and businesses will take root.” —President Barack Obama, December 6, 2010Our innovation strategy begins with critical foundations: education, scientific research, and infrastruc-ture First, we must create an educational system that is internationally competitive and innovative inpreparing our workforce for our increasingly knowledge-intensive economy Next, we must invest inscientific research to restore America’s leadership in creating the scientific and technological break-throughs that underpin private sector innovations Finally, we must invest in a first-class infrastructurethat moves people and ideas at 21st century speeds These are the building blocks of an innovationstrategy that will lead America to a more prosperous futureEducate Americans with 21st century skills and create a world-classworkforceWith strong educational foundations, Americans will create the leading ideas of the 21st century andensure that these ideas diffuse throughout the American workforce On many metrics, however, includ-ing grade-level proficiency and college graduation rates, America has slipped behind other countriesWe must reform our education and workforce training systems to ensure Americans are qualified forthe jobs of tomorrow This imperative underpins the Obama Administration’s focus on education reformin general and in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education in particular It is alsoimperative to extend STEM educational and career opportunities to women and minority groups thatare underrepresented in these areas, so that all Americans can find quality jobs and lead our innovativeeconomy in the decades aheadImprove America’s science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) educationThe President has pledged to prepare an additional 100,000 STEM teachers by the end of the decade,with strong teaching skills and deep content knowledge The Administration’s Educate to Innovate ★ 15 ★
  2. 2. A S T r AT e g y f o r A m e r i C A n i n n ovAT i o ncampaign harnesses public-private partnerships to improve K-12 STEM education, make STEM educationmore accessible, move American students up the international rankings in STEM literacy, and expandSTEM career opportunities Responding to the President’s call to action, over 100 CEOs have formedan organization called Change the Equation In 2011, these business leaders have committed to scaleup effective STEM programs in at least 100 under-served communities, with particular emphasis onbroadening participation to nurture the talents and potential of all AmericansReform elementary and secondary educationThe Administration’s Race to the Top program uses competitive grants to leverage state and local reformin the quality of elementary and secondary education The Administration’s Blueprint for Reform re-envisions the federal role in K-12 education to create the context for innovation, and the Administrationis working with Congress to update and improve the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (asamended by the No Child Left Behind Act) The President’s FY 2012 Budget includes support for SchoolTurnaround Grants to drive change and improve student performance in 5,000 of the nation’s lowest-performing schools, and support for Investing in Innovation to develop and expand effective innovativestrategies to improve students’ educational outcomesRestore America to first in the world in college attainmentAmerica has slipped from 1st to 9th among OECD countries in the share of young people with a collegedegree President Obama is committed to restoring America to first place by 2020 The Health Care andEducation Reconciliation Act (HCERA), signed in March 2010, makes all federal loans available directlyto students, ending wasteful subsidies once paid to third-party administrators By saving $68 billion insubsidies over the next 11 years, the direct loan program allows for both deficit reduction and invest-ments in college affordability for low-income students, including a $40 billion expansion of the PellGrant program The President will continue efforts to make college affordable and is calling on Congressto make permanent his American Opportunity Tax Credit, worth $10,000 for four years of college TheTrade Adjustment Act invests in our nation’s community colleges, enhancing this important avenue toadvanced training, which is also a critical component of the educational pipeline for many underservedstudents who wish to pursue further studies Finally, the Task Force on Skills for America’s Future willbuild and improve partnerships between businesses and educational institutions to train Americanworkers for 21st century jobsCreate a first-class system of early educationAccording to Nobel-award winning economist James Heckman, “Early childhood education fosterscognitive skills along with attentiveness, motivation, self-control and sociability—the character skillsthat turn knowledge into know-how and people into productive citizens ” To achieve these objectives,the Administration is investing in evidence-based early learning and development, and working to holdHead Start programs more accountable by measuring classroom quality and requiring lower-performingprograms to compete for funding In addition, the proposed Early Learning Challenge Fund will upgradestate innovation in early childhood programs through high standards and professional development ★ 16 ★
  3. 3. i n v e S T i n T h e B u i ld i n g B l o C k S o f A m e r i C A n i n n ovAT i o nStrengthen and broaden American leadership in fundamental researchAmerica’s universities, federal labs, and industrial laboratories must continue to do the research thatwill lead to breakthrough products and new companies That is why the Administration has pushed forhistoric increases in America’s R&D investments Taken together, these steps will ensure that Americacontinues to generate the most valuable ideas and that Americans have the know-how to implementthese ideas here at homeEnact the largest R&D increase in our nation’s historyWith $18 3 billion in research funding, the Recovery Act was part of the largest annual increase inresearch and development in America’s history The President’s FY 2012 Budget provides additionalsupport for science and basic research, delivering on the President’s commitment to double fundingfor three key basic research agencies—the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy’sOffice of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology laboratoriesSet national goal to invest three percent of GDP in R&DThe President has set a goal for America to invest more than three percent of our GDP in public andprivate research and development This investment rate will surpass the level achieved at the height ofthe space race, and can be achieved through policies that support basic and applied research, createnew incentives for private innovation, promote breakthroughs in national priority areas, and improveSTEM education  Build a leading physical infrastructureIn the 20th century, the United States built highway and aviation networks that transformed the coun-try—connecting our markets, businesses, and workers to fuel rapid economic expansion Today, newtransportation investments are needed to support economic growth and keep America competitive inthe global economy Efficient transportation systems facilitate trade and collaboration, and help workersfind well-matched but distant jobs By integrating our markets, infrastructure investments create thescale that attracts innovation and the competition that causes best practices to spreadFulfill a new transportation vision with high-speed railPresident Obama has set the ambitious goal of connecting 80% of Americans to the high-speed railsystem within 25 years To accomplish this, he proposes sustained investments that build on the RecoveryAct and would help create an efficient, high-speed passenger rail network of 100- to 600-mile intercitycorridors that will better connect communities across America This vision builds on the successfultraditional highway and aviation development models with a 21st century solution that focuses on aclean, energy-efficient option ★ 17 ★
  4. 4. A S T r AT e g y f o r A m e r i C A n i n n ovAT i o nDevelop the next generation of air traffic controlThe Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) is a game-changing investment in our nationalairspace system to make air travel more convenient, dependable, and energy-efficient, while ensuringflights are as safe and secure as possible President Obama’s FY 2012 Budget increases funding for thiscritical innovationCreate a National Infrastructure BankThe President has proposed the creation of a National Infrastructure Bank, which will provide a new wayto leverage investments in the nation’s highest priority infrastructure projects, supplementing reformedformula-grant transportation programsDevelop an advanced information technology ecosystemJust as our physical infrastructure provided a foundation for decades of economic growth, so willAmerica’s information technology ecosystem catalyze growth for decades to come By investing inbroadband and a modernized electric grid, securing cyberspace and ensuring the efficient use of ourwireless spectrum, the U S is laying the groundwork for sustainable economic growth, well-paying jobs,and global competitiveness, while enabling innovations that today cannot even be imaginedDevelop a nationwide, state-of-the-art communication networkThe Administration is committed to facilitating the development and deployment of a next-generationwireless broadband network that can reach at least 98% of Americans and enable public safety to haveaccess to a nationwide and interoperable wireless network A key component of catalyzing investmentand innovation in state-of-the-art wireless technology is freeing up more spectrum for wireless broad-band To that end, the Administration is sharply increasing, from 50 MHz to 550 MHz, the amount ofwireless spectrum that will be made available for commercial use The Administration’s ten-year plan willavoid “spectrum crunch” and facilitate the ongoing torrent of innovation seen in smartphones, netbooksand tablets, and the applications that run on themExpand access to broadbandApproximately 100 million Americans still do not subscribe to broadband at home, leaving one-thirdof our households operating with 20th century infrastructure in a 21st century economy The RecoveryAct provided $6 9 billion to substantially expand broadband access for households, businesses, schools,libraries, public safety providers, and hospitals across AmericaModernize the electric gridBy setting standards for smart grid technologies and making information technology investments, theAdministration is bringing the nation’s electricity grid into the 21st century to reduce energy waste Inparticular, federal investments and policy leadership in this area serve to help consumers and utilitiesoptimize the timing and sourcing of electricity use, which promises to reduce costs, increase reliability,and limit blackouts, while improving the security of the electricity system and enabling it to better useclean energy technologies ★ 18 ★
  5. 5. i n v e S T i n T h e B u i ld i n g B l o C k S o f A m e r i C A n i n n ovAT i o nSecure cyberspaceThe National Security Council and Homeland Security Council have provided President Obama with astrategic framework to enhance cyber security Under the leadership of the White House Cyber SecurityCoordinator, the federal government is working to secure our information infrastructure through newprotocols, improved detection capabilities, and game-changing research and developmentSupport research for next-generation information and communications technologyThe Obama Administration is dedicated to keeping the U S on the cutting edge of IT developmentsIn addition to the Administration’s support for wireless innovation, the Networking and InformationTechnology Research and Development (NITRD) Program funds research in areas such as high-speednetworks, next-generation supercomputers, cyber-physical systems, software engineering, and informa-tion management Recently, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology has identifiedresearch directions that will help foster the next revolution in information technology, and transformhealth care, energy efficiency, education, and transportation ★ 19 ★