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“Can Washington Power Up Inventiveness?”

Jonathan Ortmans, President, Public Forum Institute

That was the title of the July 20 event of the New America Foundation, in which the Kauffman Foundation’s Bob Litan laid out some principles to provide a sense of direction in the heavy debate on whether innovative entrepreneurship lies in the hands of government or entrepreneurs.

The equation the Kauffman Foundation proposes is rather simple: entrepreneurs = recovery. Litan said, “The next big thing is fueled by entrepreneurs, not big firms.” He talked about numerous pro-growth policy reforms, including health care. Litan highlighted that healthcare reform done right would offer security to the risk-taking entrepreneur.

The event was an open discussion proposing other key platforms to spur innovation for the next economic frontier —from broadband to immigration to electrical innovation.

Editor-in-Chief at Washington Monthly, Paul Glastris, referenced a recent report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) which revealed that the U.S. ranked in sixth among 40 countries and regions, based on 16 indicators of innovation and competitiveness. However, in terms of innovative growth, the U.S. staggered in last place. As an example, Glastris argued that compared to the rest of the world, internet connections here are slow and expensive. Australia’s internet access is three times better; France is nine times more efficient; and Japan is twenty one times better. Glastris also talked about the “reverse brain drain” and proposed creating incentives for foreign talent to remain in the U.S.

Mariah Blake, editor at Washington Monthly, emphasized the lack of innovation in the electricity sector in which the outdated tools and processes of today have remained unchanged since the 1930s. In turn, she cited the many opportunities for efficiency, economic growth, and sustainability through incentives that could introduce a new wave of green entrepreneurs.

The overall consensus was that entrepreneurs hold the golden key to the exit doors of the economic recession, yet without the leverage of policymakers, the entrepreneurial path becomes a risky road less traveled.


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