Early efforts without a central model
Technology and innovation experts around the country came to recognize in the 1980s and 1990s that the United States was losing its cutting-edge competitiveness in science, technology, and innovation despite the vast amounts of federal funding for basic research and development. A consensus was growing that the federal, state, and municipal governments in league with universities and federal laboratories needed to work together more cooperatively to build our scientific estate and innovation leadership.
By the middle of the 1990s these grave concerns resulted in a series of early efforts to address the problems—efforts that in hindsight prepared the groundwork for what needs to be done today but alas were not followed up on at the end of the decade. Still, these early efforts need to be briefly explored for the early consensus they brought to U.S. innovation policy prescriptions. In early 1995 these concerns first found collective voice when former Governors Richard Celeste of Ohio—a Democrat and creator of the Edison Programs in Ohio—and Dick Thornburgh of Pennsylvania—a Republican and creator of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners program—formed a bipartisan, 20-member State-Federal Technology Partnership Task Force consisting of national leaders including governors, state legislators, research-and-development leaders, and chief executives from business and academia. These leaders worked in collaboration with the Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology and Government; the National Governor’s Association; the American Society of Mechanical Engineers; the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; and the National Conference of State Legislatures to evaluate opportunities for collaboration between the state and federal technology programs.
The task force made recommendations on ways to redefine the state-federal science and technology relationships and generate enhanced innovation and commercialization—with the emphasis of the taskforce on greater cooperation. One of the major outcomes of the task force was the creation in late 1995 of a national nonprofit organization, the State Science and Technology Institute by the Battelle Memorial Institute, which has a mission to improve state and regional economies through science, technology, and innovation. SSTI exists today and continues to work to achieve this mission and became a free-standing organization in 2000.
That same year, John Gibbons, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, announced the creation of an interagency review of science and technology programs to help foster better state and federal government cooperation to advance national goals. This review was initiated in response to growing state investments in science and technology and the need to enhance state-federal partnerships to realize greater national benefits. The interagency review was led by U.S. Department of Commerce Undersecretary for Technology Mary Good under the auspices of the National Science and Technology Council chaired by the president. The group had representatives from all federal science and technology agencies.
In 1997, President Bill Clinton created the U.S. Innovation Partnership to coordinate federal and state efforts to stimulate the development and use of new technologies that could help the United States meet the common goals of generating economic growth, improving our schools and health care, better protecting the environment at a lower cost, and reinventing government at all levels. USIP task forces were established around specific areas and some policy recommendations emerged. Alas, both the USIP and the undersecretary for technology in the U.S. Department of Commerce ceased to exist under the Bush administration.