Innovation America Innovation America Accelerating the growth of the GLOBAL entrepreneurial innovation economy
Founded by Rich Bendis

Federal Innovation Partnership and National Innovation Advisor

Leading programs for a national innovation and competitiveness agenda

The keys to the success of this national innovation framework are the partnerships and federal leadership created in this operating model. Over the past 25 years, a new global innovation system has evolved in the United States, with support from government and industry for basic research in universities, nurtured by rapid growth in venture capital and implemented by industrial and services companies through strong investments in research and development, capital equipment, and information technology. This highly complex system of innovation, however, requires much closer collaborations and more alliances among federal funding agencies and private investors, industries, universities and government labs.

More than simply utilizing technology, innovation is the ability to take new ideas and translate them into commercial outcomes by using new processes, products or services in a way that is better and faster than the competition. The ability to do this requires an inclusive process among individuals, institutions, and organizations that results in new business models, new forms of engagement and, ultimately, new companies. Today, new companies create a greater portion of job growth than do established larger companies. In the new economy, innovation and productivity are the cornerstone of competitiveness and prosperity.

Our Federal Innovation Partnership program would address the lack of government coordination around national innovation and competitiveness. There has never been one federal agency or cabinet-level position responsible and accountable for overseeing the total federal technology investment portfolio. Nor is there one federal agency or advisor overseeing the balance of investment and technology research, which should be managed in innovation portfolio. The major objective of our federal innovation partnership program would:

  • Align investments in programs strategically
  • Access bridges into the commercial marketplace faster
  • Eliminate redundancy
  • Identify gaps in our nation’s technology portfolio
  • Decrease administrative costs
  • Measure outcomes to align performance of the programs.
  • Serve as a clearinghouse of information and resources
  • Require federal agencies to communicate and collaborate with one another to galvanize the country around a strategic innovation and competitiveness agenda
  • Catalyze cooperation among the federal agencies on a shared innovation agenda
It is important, however, to form the Federal Innovation Partnership around the existing programs that the nation is using to support technology development and transfer, education, workforce and economic development, and industry-university collaborations. Initial programs identified that form the basis of this partnership boast about $3 billion in federal funding and include but are not limited to the following programs:

Federal Technology Innovation Programs
  • Small Business Innovation Research grants program
  • Small Business Technology Transfer Research grants program
  • Technology Innovation Program
  • Manufacturing Extension Partnership
  • Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic
  • Development program
  • Federal Laboratory Consortium
  • Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Technology
  • Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research
  • Industrial Technology Program
  • Partnership for Innovation
  • Engineering Resource Center
  • Industry-University Cooperative Research Centers
Federal Innovation Capital Programs
  • Small Business Innovation Research grants program
  • Technology Innovation Program
  • Community Reinvestment Act
  • Community Development Financial Institutions
  • New Market Tax Credits
Such an array of programs perfectly illustrates why these programs are not widely understood or recognizable in the world of innovation and need to be administered through a Federal Innovation Partnership program. But at the same time, the wealth of program expertise in all of these programs should not be lost in the name of consolidation. For this reason, the federal innovation partnership program would include federal-level program administrators of the listed programs and other federal representatives deemed appropriate by the National Innovation Advisor and the Obama administration.

We believe outstanding amounts of knowledge exist in the federal agencies through managing these programs and it’s important to retain some level of independence in program administration. The Federal Innovation Partnership would add a level of oversight and ability to leverage resources and the strategic updating of programs to respond to the current global innovation environment. The chairman of the Federal Innovation Partnership would be the National Innovation Advisor, who will be an advisor to the President on strategic issues related to national innovation and competitiveness.

No cabinet level position in the Administration currently exists for maintaining America’s position as the global innovation leader, as well as making sure that federal agencies collaborate with each other and leverage resources effectively. The national innovation advisor in tandem with the Federal Innovation Partnership program would ensure consistency in the way the programs are administered and made accountable and they will work to update and enhance programs to meet the changing nature of what it takes to stay competitive globally.

Currently the federal budget for the listed Federal Technology Innovation Programs is approximately $3 billion. These programs effectively launch new technologies from the federal laboratories, small businesses, nonprofit research organizations, universities, and other centers of excellence in the United States. It will be important for the National Innovation Advisor to monitor the balance of the federal investment portfolio between basic, applied, advanced, and mature technologies and industries to improve our competitive position globally and recommend new programs, investments, and initiatives where needed.

The other programs represented in the Federal Innovation Partnership are existing Federal Innovation Capital Programs, which provide financial incentives for innovation-based development. Very few of these programs have been structured to support the rapidly growing entrepreneurial innovation economy of the United States. This needs to change. Our policy framework would enable this reform to happen at a federal level coordinated through the White House to ensure effectiveness.

As our National Innovation Framework chart on page 7 illustrates, the Federal Innovation Partnership program would work through the National Public Private Partnership Innovation Program to coordinate investments from the public-private National Innovation Seed Fund to direct innovation investment capital efficiently but opportunistically around the country. This public-private partnership of existing innovation associations and networks would provide outreach and investment-intelligence roles between the states and regions, and allow the federal government to align technology innovation investment programs with federal, state, regional and university programs.