Keys to Economic Growth and Global Competitiveness
PDE staff attended a Capitol Hill briefing on comparative innovation policy sponsored by the National Research Council. Our report of the event follows:
A September 22nd Capital Hill briefing on research, science, and technology (R-S-T) parks sought to convince policymakers that promoting innovation and commercialization represents an integral engine of economy growth. In conjunction with the briefing, the National Academies Press released its most recent report on “Understanding Research, Science and Technology Parks: Global Best Practices.”
Senator Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas) opened the briefing with a discussion that included the past successes of and future plans for R-S-T parks in his state. R-S-T parks combine the strengths of universities, companies, and government agencies that engage in developing innovative technologies and in taking them to market. As noted by Brain Darmody, the Assistant Vice President for Research and Economic Development at the University of Maryland, the “direct personal contact” facilitated by these parks “has been demonstrated by numerous studies to be the most effective way of diffusing technology knowledge.”
These “communities of innovation” are proven catalysts of regional development, argued Darmody. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, every $1 million spent on research & development (R&D) generates 36 jobs on average. This translates to approximately $28,000 spent to create each job. Among start-up companies, only 13% of research park graduates’ ventures failed, compared to 40% of technology start-ups nationally.
In recent years, both public and private investment in R-S-T parks in the U.S. has languished. Meanwhile, other countries – most notably China – are actively supporting programs to promote innovation. In particular, they are duplicating the model of R-S-T parks within their own countries with high rates of success.
According to Alan Wm. Wolff, Chairman of the National Research Council Committee on Comparative Innovation Policy, this represents an alarming trend within the context of U.S. global competitiveness. Overall, the speakers argued that federal agencies and state governments in the U.S. need to provide serious support for research parks, while existing federal, academic, and private R&D assets also need to be integrated. In addition, the presenters discussed the possible ways of improving existing programs and policies, including the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program.
Senator Pryor underscored the need to convince government leaders that investment in innovation is necessary, especially when the economy is in a downturn. He acknowledged the challenges of the current budgetary climate, but also stated that he would not want to “shortchange the future” by not investing in innovation policies that have demonstrated such a high return on investment.
[Reported by Marianne Sierocinski]