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President Obama recently announced that the U.S. government is committed to restoring the nation's leadership in educating children in math and science, and launched a new “Educate to Innovate” campaign. The campaign will bring together teachers, parents, businesses and the media to promote math and science learning. The effort promises to test and launch new ideas to improve math and science education outcomes, and most importantly, our children’s interest in these fields as platforms to tackle many pressing challenges. While the campaign aims at encouraging students to engage in innovation, will it foster innovation among education providers themselves?
One of the few effective government programs to support innovation is at risk. The language authorizing the Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) program is set to expire on March 20, and so far, disputes have hampered a reauthorization resolution. What is at stake? Millions of jobs and technological innovations that contribute to national defense, the environment, and health care, among many other areas.
Last week, I highlighted the need for a smart regulation framework that doesn’t inhibit entrepreneurship. Today, I would like talk about liability litigation in more specificity. All businesses should be concerned about the inherent risk of bringing a new product or service to the market. However, entrepreneurship can suffer if liability litigation is pursued in ways that create too much uncertainty.
Youth unemployment rates are soaring worldwide. That rate recently reached 15% in the UK, a record 25.5% in the U.S., and much higher numbers in other countries where economic growth and opportunity have long failed to keep pace with the growing number of young people entering the labor force. However, youth unemployment rates don’t have to translate into catastrophe for that generation and those it sustains. The very victims of the situation might actually benefit from it if policymakers can incentivize them to follow their dreams. In the U.S. alone, four in ten young people ages 8 to 21 have or would like to start their own business someday. These two statistics spell opportunity to me.
Today, I would like to discuss the education-related recommendations outlined at the Kauffman Foundation’s State of Entrepreneurship address. We have long been aware that American education is struggling to stay competitive. We also know that the development of entrepreneurial skills, such as opportunity recognition and prudent risk taking, are not prioritized in most U.S. educational institutions. Developing tomorrow’s talented, capable innovators is a challenge that will require entrepreneurially-driven improvements in education at all levels.
Momentum for a comprehensive patent reform has been slowly building in Congress. Last week, the House Judiciary Committee began examining a patent bill introduced in March by Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and ranking member Lamar Smith (R-TX). In the Senate, Leahy (D-VT) recently cut a deal to soften damages language in last year’s failed Senate bill. Most are eager to see reform. The rules, protections, and the adjudication process surrounding IP requires constant adjustments to keep up with challenges of the digital revolution. However, as new policy is considered, I hope policy makers contemplate the effects of patent legislation on our future job creators.
In the hopes to continue a much-needed conversation on how to revamp the economy, this week I would like to highlight another policy recommendation that emerged from the Kauffman Foundation’s State of Entrepreneurship address: reform immigration policy to attract migrants who want to start new companies and create jobs.
So we know that entrepreneurs are the primary engines of job creation in the United States. Research study after research study has confirmed that it is young firms that drive improvements in the employment situation. From 1980–2005, firms less than five years old accounted for all net job growth in the country. In 2007 alone, young firms (1-5 years old) accounted for nearly two-thirds of job creation. We also know more than half of the companies on the 2009 Fortune 500 list were launched during a recession or bear market, along with nearly half of the firms on the 2008 Inc. list of America’s fastest-growing companies. In light of all this evidence and in face of the employment crisis in the country, how can we truly support the entrepreneurs behind these young firms?
The $787 billion economic stimulus package includes large investments in innovation in areas such as energy, health IT, and broadband. Developing these new technologies will be scientists and engineers, but here’s a reality check: we don’t have enough of them. Although increasing the number of U.S. scientists and engineers is a must, in the shorter term, we need a quicker fix: more high-skilled immigration.
Cost-effective physical infrastructures provide the essential platforms for the activities of any healthy economy. Modern infrastructure should be increasingly “smart,” incorporating next-generation technologies to manage scarce resources, such as clean air and water, used in infrastructure systems. As our leaders invest stimulus funds devoted to infrastructure projects, it is important that they not overlook the role of entrepreneurs in building infrastructure that supports creative, risk-taking behavior.
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