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A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about President Obama's State of the Union Speech. I observed that entrepreneurial vision was lacking and I wish he had used the occasion to revive bipartisan support for an entrepreneurial agenda that could have given both parties things to support.
I was disappointed to have been unable to make the 2014 Global Entrepreneurship Congress last week in Moscow. It's a historic event, in its fifth year, that gathers startup champions from around the world--entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, thought leaders and policymakers--to work together to help bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare. This kind of annual assembly has contributed to the expansion of a global entrepreneurial ecosystem by connecting experts and entrepreneurs across borders and sectors to unleash their ideas and transform innovation into reality.
Having had my home city represent the bottom of its fair share of "Worst" lists (Hey there, Cleveland!), I meet the ever-popular lists and rankings with a healthy dose of skepticism. All certainly are not created equal and all do not have the best of intentions.
Tuning in for the state of the union (SOTU) address is somewhat of an annual ritual for me. For the past two decades, spanning several presidencies from both parties, I torture myself straining to hear that one word, however challenging it is to say (and spell)--entrepreneur. So I was encouraged when President Obama dropped the "E" bomb early in his 2014 SOTU address, made even more special by the fact that he referenced a woman entrepreneur. And I wasn't alone in my enthusiasm as the twittersphere erupted likewise.
The creation of new ideas being essential to a growing economy, the U.S. government has continuously reformed rights of Intellectual property (IP) to maintain the most entrepreneurial climate possible. Recognized in the Constitution itself, patents for new inventions and copyrights for new artistic creations provide an incentive for people to both create and publicize their intellectual property. However, rules, protections, and the adjudication process surrounding IP requires constant reforms to keep up with challenges of the digital revolution. Piracy has become much easier, while at the same time patent laws in the U.S. are increasingly cumbersome. In many cases, innovation is being hindered by overly broad and specious court and agency decrees. This brief is on U.S. patents; copyrights will be treated elsewhere.
The crown jewel of the U.S. university system – the finest in the world – is the research university, where knowledge creation is the ultimate goal. Recognition of the centrality of knowledge creation to economic growth makes the efficiency of university innovation a top concern to policymakers, especially since the federal government funds two-thirds of the $48 billion of R&D performed in academic institutions. In too many universities, commercialization of research discoveries is not as rapid or as successful as it could be. The solution provided by Technology Transfer Offices (TTO) has been mixed, as too many have been directed to focus on maximizing revenue through patent licensing, leading to a sub-optimal level of technology diffusion. In the face of declining funding of basic science research, venture capital migration to downstream opportunities, and heightened competition from abroad, the optimal commercialization of U.S. university innovations could not be more important.
Developing the human capital of young Americans is vital to keep America’s entrepreneurial economy growing. Our future entrepreneurs and their workers need the twenty-first century skills and knowledge to create successful ventures and to spur innovation in the economy. Yet education in the U.S. is struggling to stay competitive and fails to provide access to a quality educational experience for all students. Developing tomorrow’s talented, capable innovators is a challenge that will require major, entrepreneurially-driven improvements in education from pre-school through graduate school.
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