How to Plug America's Innovation Gap

July 11, 2008
Think tanks outline plan to boost leadership, raise productivity and create better jobs.

Two think tanks are calling on the federal government to take bold measures to turn around what they call America's declining innovation leadership and thus raise productivity and U.S. incomes. The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, along with the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings, outline their plan in a report titled, "Blueprint for American Prosperity: Unleashing the Potential of a Metropolitan Nation."

In short, the authors say the U.S. federal government can and should do more to promote innovation. Even as the report acknowledges steps in that direction, such as passage of the 2007 America Competes Act, the organizations call for "a nimble, lean and collaborative entity" devoted to supporting innovation activities. That entity is a new National Innovation Foundation (NIF), with a proposed annual budget of $1 billion to
$2 billion and residence within the Commerce Department or other federal agency. Once established, the report states, the NIF would:

  • "Catalyze industry/university research partnerships through national sector research grants.
  • Expand regional innovation/promotion through state-level grants to fund activities like technology commercialization and entrepreneurial support.
  • Encourage technology adoption by assisting small and midsized firms in implementing best practice processes and organizational forms that they do not currently use.
  • Support regional industry clusters with grants for cluster development.
  • Emphasize performance and accountability by measuring and researching innovation, productivity and the value-added to firms from NIF assistance.
  • Champion innovation by promoting innovation policy within the federal government and serving as an expert resource on innovation to other agencies."

The complete report is available at www.itif.org/files/NIF.pdf.

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