Guest blog post by Julie Goonewardene, Vice Chancellor for Innovation & Strategic Investment, Diaceutics Chairwoman, AMA Board, MBI Board
Last year, I was honored to be appointed as an advisor to Secretary Pritzker as part of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE). NACIE is emblematic of all the entrepreneurs, educators, philanthropists, and innovators in all sectors of the economy who are working to ensure that our country remains a place of opportunity, innovation and entrepreneurship for generations to come. In December 2014 Secretary Pritzker convened the first meeting of the 27-member NACIE. My NACIE colleagues impress me. We are a diverse group, and I was excited to hear from my fellow council members as they brought their experiences to bear as we began discussing the issues. I can’t think of a better group to address the challenges of creating an innovation economy.
As the current NACIE we are charged with bringing our ideas, and networks together to identify and recommend policies, programs, and partnerships that can help American businesses, individuals, and communities become even more competitive in the global marketplace.
Economic development is hard. It demands years of sustained effort that transcends political movements, market cycles, demographic changes, and geopolitical shifts. It also requires people from all sectors of the economic ecosystem to analyze and understand what is working, to offer alternatives where improvement is needed, and to reach consensus around policies and investments that support paths to prosperity for all Americans.
The Secretary and her team, marshaled by the Director of EDA’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Julie Kirk, expect every council member to come to meetings prepared to contribute. Our first workshop began with an exchange of backgrounds and philosophies then broke into three standing committees — Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Workforce Development — where the Council will conduct the majority of its work.
I left the daylong session with three over-riding observations.
- Secretary Pritzker is a person of action. She is looking for recommendations that, if accepted, can be implemented almost immediately.
- This Council is committed. Each member has a firm grasp of pressing issues and was eager to debate potential solutions. As the chair of my committee, Dr. James Clements, remarked, we are here to make a difference.
- Council members and their organizations are doing a lot of great work. Each member represents teams that are bringing new approaches to starting and growing companies, building the workforce and leaders of the future, and making the economic ecosystem better in meaningful ways.
I encourage you to visit the Department of Commerce and EDA websites to read more about the Council’s priorities and progress over the next two years. In addition to official press releases and meeting notes, several Council members have agreed to share their perspectives and experiences through blogs. Dr. Stephen Tang and Chauncy Lennon started this member series in December by discussing the importance of entrepreneurship and outlining JPMorgan Chase’s approach to data-driven workforce training respectively.
I believe that we have the best economic system in the world. My Australian mother and Sri-Lankan father chose the United States as their home because our country allows each of us the chance to define and follow our own paths to prosperous lives. They provided a better life for their children. I want those opportunities to continue for you and your children as much as I want them for my children and myself. My parents always stressed that we should think critically, solve problems, respect differences, have compassion for others, and that service was a privilege. I am honored to join my fellow Council members, the Department of Commerce, and economic development partners throughout the nation in service to this ideal. We have a lot of work to do and a short time to get it all done, but the passion and enthusiasm I witnessed among my fellow NACIE members gives me every confidence that we will succeed. It is true that our work has challenges, but it always matters.