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U.S. Commerce Secretary Highlights Innovation System Weaknesses

Mark Marich

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke pointed to severe weaknesses with the US innovation system when he took part in a meeting of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science & Technology (PCAST) on January 7.

“America simply doesn’t have an efficient system to take new ideas from government, academic and private-sector research labs and translate them into commercially-viable products and businesses,” Secretary Locke said.

In terms of approaches to fixing these problems, Locke said that recent boosts to federal R&D spending by President Obama and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are not enough because much of the problem lies in inefficiencies in moving technologies from labs to the marketplace. Locke said the current attitude was: “If we fund it, the entrepreneurs and venture capitalists will come.”

Secretary Locke said the following ideas are worth considering:

-    Do we need an ‘eBay for ideas’ that makes all ideas generated from federally-funded research publicly available to entrepreneurs?
-    Should we give university innovators a choice of agents to license their IP?
-    How do we better integrate federal research that’s happening across multiple agencies?
-    Should we factor a university’s track record of commercialization in our decision to award R&D grants?

As Commerce Secretary, Locke has launched the Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship with the mission to drive policies to help entrepreneurs to translate new ideas, products, and services into economic growth. Locke announced that the Office will convene a meeting next month in which universities, innovators, entrepreneurs and investors to discuss technology commercialization issues. He also revealed that “the office is working with an interagency team to explore ways to support proof-of-concept centers at universities.”

Stay tuned for the next message from Secretary Locke for the Kauffman Foundation’s State of Entrepreneurship Address taking place on Tuesday Jan 19. At this event Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke will provide remarks about the administration's plans to encourage the growth of entrepreneurship.

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