Fostering Competitiveness and Innovation Capacity in the United States

Reinventing the Light Bulb

By G. Nagesh Rao

Social media has transformed the outlook for entrepreneurs and for innovation as a whole. The speed at which knowledge and information is spread around the globe has pulled down barriers and leveled the playing field for would-be entrepreneurs everywhere. At the same time, silos that separate businesses and economies are also coming down. More than ever before, we are now more aware of the interconnectedness of the global community of innovators and their
supporters. Thus when an injustice occurs, it is done so in an open and democratic environment thanks to technological development.

In the U.S., we now need to sharpen the arrows in our arsenal in order to compete more effectively in this new world. In recent times, many legislative initiatives have been launched with a view to engaging national interest in and attention on this work, including the America Competes Act, and the America Invents Act. These have been accompanied by such programs as America’s Next Top Energy Innovators, SelectUSA, BusinessUSA and Startup America, which have sought to highlight resources and ideas that entrepreneurs can leverage to take them to the next stage. Many of these endeavors are focused on how government can “jumpstart” the economy from a high technological growth perspective. What about viewing the transactional value that is derived from social entrepreneurship and building our competitive advantage through the use of shared resources?

I was privileged to be associated with the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) which, in collaboration with the White House’s National Economic Council, commissioned a data-driven report, “The Competitiveness and Innovative Capacity of the United States” in response to this new challenging, changing world.

Three key points made by the report as quoted by DOC were as follows:

1) Federal investments in research, education and infrastructure were critical building blocks for American economic competitiveness, business expansion and job creation in the last century.

2) Failures to properly invest in, and have comprehensive strategies for, those areas have eroded America’s competitive position.

3) In a constrained budgetary environment, prioritizing support for these pillars are imperative for America’s economic future
and provide a strong return on investment for the U.S. taxpayer.

National Economic Advisor Gene Sperling made it clear at last year’s White House Social and Civic Participation Impact Investing Summit, that “Double Bottom Line was not good enough and that we needed to consider Triple Bottom Line”, because the notion that we sustain profits a little bit longer for either people or planet based good-will endeavors was short-sighted to the realization that we are living in a globally competitive society. We must learn to work with each other so that weaknesses are mitigated and strengths fortified.

It is clear that such a series of challenges can only be met by engaged, collaborative leadership from government, business (including large companies and startups), associations and non-profit institutions. New and innovative approaches and programmatic efforts that exemplify this public-private model are in operation in many parts of the country, through many top-notch organizations like eminent technology accelerators such as Launch, Larta Institute, TechStars, JumpStart, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, ONAMI and many more. As well employing best practices from cutting edge social entrepreneurship organizations such as Kiva, Ashoka, Skoll Foundation, CK-12, coupled with companies seeking to push forth on technological innovation in all forms like GE, Saint-Gobain, GSK, UnderArmour, etc…

No matter what in order to secure our future and compete as vigorously as we have in past decades and eras, Americans need to embrace innovation and creativity as a national imperative from a sustainable high-tech growth perspective.

G. Nagesh Rao was a former Senior Policy Advisor with the US Department of Commerce’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Currently he serves as an Expert Strategist on IP-Law and Innovation Systems to a number of cutting edge organizations and councils including Publicbeat, Launch:Energy, FLoW, and Global Access in Action.

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