Innovation is portable (and attractive)

Innovation is portable. This is a quote from David Smick’s book “The World is Curved.” Who is David Smick, you may be asking? He was an economic advisor to Congressman Jack Kemp, President Ronald Reagan and President Bill Clinton, two Republicans and a Democrat. His comment is telling in that he notes if we do not do our best to keep the innovators here, they will go elsewhere. And, when they go elsewhere, manufacturing from the innovation will be based elsewhere.

The US has the world’s best college and university system and it draws people from around the globe and country. So, we should grease the skids to make it easier for them to stay and innovate here post graduation. It would be a shame for the idea creation to start here and migrate to another country. As that will be where the job creation begins.

So, what do we need to do about it? We need to make sure our immigration laws are improved to make it easier to keep talent. Industry has been crying out for this, yet it is held hostage by a political gamesmanship to speak to a strident base. We need to reform our patent laws to make sure “patent trolls” do not interfere and sabotage the innovators. These trolls are extortionists who will use a key word or phrase in an idea by someone else to state that someone is violating a patent they filed (with no product or development behind it). What the troll wants is “go away money” without a court case.

We need to understand the historical marriage and timing of venture capital, government funding and other investor capital. Our nation has been forged on the interplay between these funding sources, as they are needed to perpetuate ideas and implement the initial manufacturing effort. The money is needed at various times in the process, with the government money sometimes in advance of the venture capital, sometimes in tandem with the venture capital and sometimes following it. The need varies based on the what is needed to get stuff off the ground.

There are numerous examples of joint investment. I spoke of one last night about an offshore wind turbine testing facility in Charleston, South Carolina. It is a joint venture between folks like GE and Siemens who make turbines, Clemson University, the City of Charleston, the US Department of Energy and the SC Department of Energy (although it may have a different name). The idea is to improve the efficacy of these offshore wind turbines making them more economical to use here in the states, as they are done elsewhere.

Another good example in Durham, North Carolina is a company called Semprius, which makes the most elegant solar photo-voltaic panel in the world, where 33% of the sun’s energy is convertible to electricity, a huge leap forward. This is a joint venture between Pratt-Whitney Rocketdyne, Siemens and the US Department of Energy. With solar energy taking off everywhere, but especially in North Carolina with about 23,000 jobs which have been growing at a 25% annual rate the last three years, it shows what innovation means to an area. Nationally, at year-end 2014, there are 174,000 solar jobs which have been growing at a double-digit rate over the last five years per annum.

It should be obvious that I picked two renewable energy examples, as these two sources not only have to be a key part of our future energy mix, but they have and will promote jobs as a result. And, not only is innovation portable – it is attractive to new business. So, this is where we need to fund more of our resources. It is good for our environment and it is good for business. And, per Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change which is on point, it is good for God’s creation. Given that the Pope is also a trained scientist with a Masters in Chemistry, as well as a humanitarian, I think the world should listen to what he has to say on these issues. Especially, since he is echoing the findings of so many scientific bodies and panels.

11 thoughts on “Innovation is portable (and attractive)

  1. Our latest contribution to the world of blood-sucking humans is “water trolls.” They have filed hundreds of lawsuits calif. against water district, mine included, for not having water that meets standards. Cities and counties fold like cheap suits and pay the $30,000 to $100,000 settlements, which contribute nothing towards improving the water situation, rather than face these crooks in court. “Its cheaper to settle” is the lament. That money could have gone to improving the water situation.

    Another blow to innovation. Paying shyster lawyers rather than innovative engineers.

  2. People (mostly of the republican persuasion) often view regulations against dirty energy creation as “job killers.” They never stop to think that the cleaner, greener technologies are/will be a boon to new industries and new jobs. I guess it depends on who is filing their political coffers.

    • Janis, this is why I bang the drum about the jobs are here, too. Coal jobs are retrenching and number about 75,000 while solar jobs are at 174,000 growing at double digits. I also fault leaders in coal states for not pushing alternative energy as they have known for several years they were not going grow and actually retrench. I would argue these leaders have led poorly in this regard. Thanks , BTG

      • In the end the purveyors of dirty energy will pay the piper — as they have in Germany. The handwriting is on the wall: green is here to stay. These people are simply stupid. Period!

      • Paying the piper will occur, but who will foot the bill? Many of the unconsidered costs (clean-up, health care, environmental degradation, water loss) are borne by others. If we made the developer of the energy and broker utility bear these unconsidered costs, they may rethink their energy mix. A solar panel will not spill or create pollutants like coal.

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