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Blog Category: Innovation and entrepreneurship

Working to Strengthen Economic Relationship, Secretary Pritzker Concludes Commercial Diplomacy Trip to Pakistan

During her trip, Secretary Pritzker also held bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker visited Islamabad, Pakistan this week as part of the Administration’s efforts to boost bilateral trade and investment with Pakistan and strengthen the partnership between our governments and people.

As part of her first official visit to the country, Secretary Pritzker joined Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to launch the first-ever U.S.-Pakistan Economic Partnership Week, a bilateral initiative intended to highlight the potential for growing the relationship between the United States and Pakistan. She thanked senior government officials for their dedication to improving the partnership and acknowledged that the economic relationship between the two countries has, over the years, buttressed the overall relationship and is still growing.

U.S.-Pakistan Economic Partnership Week included the third U.S.-Pakistan Business Opportunities Conference, an event intended to engage the private sector from both the United States and Pakistan, and strengthen business-to-business ties.

Secretary Pritzker opened the Business Opportunities Conference on Tuesday. Addressing an audience of more than 400 people, many attending from overseas, the Secretary applauded the work being done by the Pakistani and American private sector companies represented. She commended them for engaging with government agencies seeking to improve Pakistan’s business and investment climate and called on them to continue their efforts to expand trade and investment between Pakistan and the United States.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Selects San Jose City Hall as Permanent Space for Silicon Valley Satellite Office

View of exterior of City Hall (credit: Atsuke)

Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced that the San Jose City Hall building will be the permanent location for the USPTO’s Silicon Valley satellite office, and is scheduled to open by the end of 2014.

The selection of a permanent USPTO office in the Silicon Valley is a key part of the Commerce Department and Obama administration’s efforts to strengthen American innovation. As a driver of U.S. competitiveness and job growth, promoting and strengthening innovation is a major priority in U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker’s “Open for Business Agenda,” which was launched last week.

The USPTO plays a vital role in helping protect cutting-edge, American ideas that drive our economy and keep the U.S. globally competitive. The satellite offices specifically advance the Department’s innovation agenda by helping entrepreneurs get their products to market more quickly, provide tailored resources to local start-ups and industries, and create good paying, high-skilled jobs.

Startup Culture Flourishes on America’s College Campuses

Image or report cover

Cross-posted from White House Office of Science and Technology Policy blog by Doug Rand, Assistant Director for Entrepreneurship at OSTP

Today—marking the first full week of National Entrepreneurship Month—the Department of Commerce released a new report entitled The Innovative and Entrepreneurial University, underscoring the increasingly diverse ways in which colleges and universities across America are promoting cultures of entrepreneurship on campus and encouraging students to start companies.

As hubs of learning, networking, mentorship, and creativity, colleges and universities provide particularly fertile ground for the cultivation of world-changing, entrepreneurial ideas. The report released today, which is based on more than 130 interviews with university leaders and builds on prior work by the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, highlights more than 50 of the most promising initiatives that have sprouted up on campuses across the country, including those that promote entrepreneurship among students and faculty; accelerate the transition of research innovations from the lab to the marketplace; and encourage engagement between universities, industry partners, and regional economies.

Secretary Pritzker Tours Global Center for Medical Innovation in Atlanta, Georgia

Secretary Pritzker views a prototyping machine at the Global Center for Medical Innovation

Today, as part of her nationwide listening tour, Secretary Pritzker visited the Global Center for Medical Innovation (GCMI) in Atlanta, Ga. GCMI is an independent, non-profit organization that works with universities, research centers, and investors to help accelerate the commercialization of innovative medical technology.

GCMI, which opened in 2010, houses facilities that local entrepreneurs can use to design, engineer, and build their products, and provides access to a growing network of experts that can help bring cutting edge ideas to market. The secretary toured the facility with GCMI executives and CEOs from two of the four startup businesses that reside at GCMI.

During her tour, Secretary Pritzker learned about some of the daily on-site activities at GCMI, including medical device design engineering and prototyping, and explored the organization’s design lab. She also learned about the center’s rapid prototype machine, which is a 3D printer that enables innovators, and entrepreneurs to bring their ideas from concept to reality in a matter of hours. Typically, prototypes take days or weeks to manufacture. GCMI is able to support a relationship between Georgia Tech and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta to develop and commercialize new medical devices for the pediatric market. They are also helping an Atlanta-based entrepreneur and an inventor from Georgia Tech develop a functional prototype to help quadriplegics GAIN greater mobility.

Secretary Pritzker also met with some of the students who are part of GCMI’s apprentice program. This program provides opportunities to students and recent graduates from leading engineering and medical schools around the country who participate in a range of development activities that help bring new medical technology from the lab to the clinic.

Commerce Announces Partnership with Cornell NYC Tech to Help American Entrepreneurs Innovate, Grow, and Create Jobs

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank announces a first-of-its-kind campus collaboration that will provide Commerce resources directly to students, faculty and industry (photo credit: Lindsay France/University Photography, Cornell)

First-of-its-kind campus collaboration will provide USPTO and Commerce resources directly to students, faculty and industry, help accelerate commercialization of new technologies

Today Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank was joined by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) David Kappos and Cornell University President David J. Skorton to announce a groundbreaking agreement between the Commerce Department and Cornell University that will promote growth for American businesses and entrepreneurs. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), and New York City Deputy Mayor Robert Steel also participated in the event.

Acting Secretary Blank announced that for the first time, the resources of a U.S. government agency and a major research institution will join forces to give students and researchers at Cornell’s New York City Tech Campus (Cornell NYC Tech) direct access to resources that will help them bring their ideas to market and grow their businesses.

By installing a permanent staff member of the U.S. Commerce Department at Cornell’s NYC Tech campus, the department will be bringing its full suite of resources to the university community, helping connect students, faculty and mentors to early-stage investors, intellectual property strategies, export assistance tools, government grants, and academic partners. The partnership will help Cornell’s new academic institution break down the traditional boundaries that exist between graduate education and the research and development of technology products.  Press release

Acting Secretary Blank Speaks With Council of Foreign Relations on Increasing the Level of Business Investment in the U.S.

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank Answers Questions After Her Remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations

This afternoon, Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank spoke before the Council on Foreign Relations about the Obama administration's initiatives to help businesses expand their investment in the United States and bring jobs back home. The Commerce Department works to attract investment across all sectors, but in her remarks Blank focused on manufacturing because that sector has added more than half-a-million new jobs since 2009, compared to the previous decade in which six million manufacturing jobs were lost. In addition after decades of watching American companies take jobs to other countries, more and more manufacturers are making the decision to keep factories and production facilities here in the United States and are bringing jobs back to the U.S. from overseas through insourcing.

Blank mentioned that the renewal of the manufacturing sector is driven by America’s quality infrastructure, skilled labor, and advanced research and innovation that are critical for manufacturers to thrive. Business leaders list a number of reasons why the U.S. looks so attractive to them right now, including the fact that domestic energy production is lowering the cost of oil and natural gas needed in manufacturing. A second reason for investing in the U.S. is a competitive edge in labor productivity. America’s manufacturing workers now produce about nine percent more each hour than they did in 2008.

Blank noted that the list of reasons that CEOs give for investing here is longer still. America has a strong rule of law and a good regulatory environment. Additionally, the U.S. has the strongest level of intellectual property protection–and our patent system is only getting better due to the 2011 passage and implementation of the America Invents Act. America has the best universities in the world, producing graduates that drive entrepreneurship and feed innovation into our private sector.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Promotes Innovation in Maine

PTO Director David Kappos addresses the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce in Rockport, Maine

Innovation is thriving in Maine, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the Department of Commerce, and the administration are working hard to further foster that environment, Under Secretary of Commerce and USPTO Director David Kappos told the Regional Chamber of Commerce of Penobscot Bay, Maine, on Tuesday.

From 2009 to 2010, the number of patent filings in the Portland, Maine, region nearly doubled, Kappos said. “We’re doing a lot to ensure that creative ideas and groundbreaking innovations, born right here in Maine, can flourish, and that the American innovation system is one that’s built to last.”

Barriers to innovation are being reduced, Kappos said, in part through the Startup America initiative, which includes investment funds, mentoring networks for entrepreneurs, tax breaks for small businesses, and the Department of Commerce’s i6 Green Challenge. That program rewards communities that develop and embrace cutting-edge ideas in green technology development and implementation.

Kappos also highlighted promoting insourcing of U.S. jobs through robust protections of our intellectual property abroad.

Innovation in the Marketplace: Dr. Desh Deshpande on Successful Proof of Concept Centers

Portrait of Desh Deshpande

Guest blog post by Nish Acharya, Director of the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.

The National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE) supports President Obama’s innovation strategy by helping to develop policies that foster entrepreneurship and identifying new ways to take great ideas from the lab to the marketplace to drive economic growth and create jobs.

One of the guiding forces of NACIE is its co-chair, Dr. Desh Deshpande, who is also Chairman and President of the Sparta Group and has been involved with many other companies, such as A123 Systems, Sycamore Networks, Tejas Networks, Sandstone Capital, and HiveFire. He is also the founder of the Deshpande Foundation, and creator and supporter of the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which is a leading proof of concept center.

In the last of a series of conference calls with members of NACIE, on June 27, participants spoke with Dr. Deshpande, with whom I have worked closely to identify and implement strategies to spur entrepreneurship and innovation.

During the call, Dr. Deshpande defined innovation as coming up with new ideas, while entrepreneurship is putting those ideas into practice. He pointed out that all innovation is contextual, in that no group of individuals can just sit down and solve all the world’s problems. It is important, he noted, that innovators live in the areas where the problems exist. His point echoed one that has been made by several other NACIE members, namely that innovators have a greater chance of success if they begin by solving the problems that exist in their own communities.

Acting Secretary Blank Highlights Competitions As a Tool For Improving American Competitiveness

This morning, Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank spoke before the Department of Energy’s National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition. The competition is part of the Obama administration's Startup America Initiative, the White House campaign to inspire and promote entrepreneurship. Launched in December 2011, the National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition included six regional competitions that served as platforms for college students to present business plans that transform great clean energy ideas into great businesses. The goal of building regional networks of student-focused businesses, as well as its inclusion of corporate leaders in the clean energy and venture capital sectors, builds squarely on existing partnerships with the Department of Commerce to spur domestic innovation and entrepreneurship.

Blank told the audience, which included the six regional winning teams, that the key to America’s success is innovation. . . new products, new processes, new ways of thinking.  Since the 1940s, over two-thirds of America’s economic growth has been directly related to increased productivity due to innovationthat’s both new products and new production processes.

Robin Chase, Founder of Zipcar and Buzzcar, Discusses Opportunities to Leverage Excess Capacity for Innovation

Robin Chase, Founder of Zipcar and Buzzcar

Guest blog post by Nish Acharya, director of the U.S. Commerce Department Economic Development Administration’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

In the second of the series of conference calls with national leaders in innovation and entrepreneurship, we had small business owners, entrepreneurs, innovators and stakeholders join me for an in-depth conference call with Ms. Robin Chase, founder and former CEO of Zipcar, founder and CEO of Buzzcar, and a member of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE).

Ms. Chase started the conversation by giving us some background about how she started Zipcar in June 2000 with $75,000 that she had raised. She was able to raise more money from the Boston venture capital community by attending every start-up meeting she could, using the fact that she obtained degrees from a “local” college and university to pitch her idea. Her efforts paid off: for example, an MIT angel venture group funded a significant portion of the early investment in Zipcar.

Ms. Chase shared that she spends a lot of time thinking about the use of excess capacity and believes that this is a fertile area for innovation. She provided several examples of companies that have been built around this concept, including Skype and Buzzcar.

ITA: In Brussels, Assistant Secretary Camuñez Promotes Intellectual Property Rights and Protections

Seated beside Assistant Secretary Camuñez is Marielle Gallo, a Member of the European Parliament representing France.

Guest blog post by Michael C. Camuñez, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance, International Trade Administration

This past week, I traveled to Europe as part of my ongoing efforts to deepen the already-robust trans-Atlantic trade relationship. One of my stops was in Brussels, Belgium, the home of the European Commission and heart of the European Union. There, I sat down with EU leaders to discuss ways in which the U.S. and Europe can work together to foster greater economic opportunity and growth on both sides of the Atlantic. I was honored to join a lunch with the president of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, and other EU leaders, where I offered them my perspective on the importance of the protection of intellectual property rights to our shared prosperity.

I also participated in a panel discussion on intellectual property rights (IPR) and growth at the 10th Annual European Business Summit, an issue vital to fostering innovation. My participation in the Business Summit was timely. For the past several weeks, IPR policies have been hotly debated across the European Union. The question at the forefront of this debate is: how does one protect and enforce IPR, while at the same time creating an environment that will foster the continued growth of the digital economy?

My remarks offered me an opportunity to talk about the perspective that I bring as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance. My role has given me some insight into the global competition to transform industrial, carbon-based economies into 21st-century knowledge-based economies–to attract and keep talent, to intensify the pace of innovation and commercialization of innovative products and services, and how to gain and keep our competitive edge.

Creating High-Quality Jobs in Growing Industries through Public-Private Partnerships

Sandia Science and Technology Park

Guest blog post by Acting Assistant Secretary for Economic Development Matt Erskine

There are dynamic collaborations and initiatives supporting regional growth strategies across the country. Today, I addressed a group of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and technology commercialization leaders brought together by Technology Ventures Corporation during their Deal Stream Summit. This premier conference seeks to facilitate investment partnerships between federal labs, start-ups, innovators, and the venture community to bolster commercialization of technology and increase competitiveness. I discussed the Obama administration’s commitment to advancing innovation and accelerating the commercialization of new technologies to the marketplace.

Earlier in the day, I visited the Sandia Science and Technology Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico. With their focus on advanced technologies, technology parks such as this are vital to America’s economic future. These public-private ventures bring together innovators with entrepreneurs and transform theoretical ideas for the marketplace. It’s quite a dynamic environment for the businesses located there, such as ATA Aerospace, Emcore Photovoltaics, and Nanogenesis. And the end results? They include the development of new and unique products, the creation of high-quality jobs, the growth of vibrant communities, and an improvement in the quality of life—both in the immediate region and well beyond.

USPTO in the 1940s

Drawing of Disney camera

Ed. Note: This post is part of a series following the release of the 1940 Census highlighting various Commerce agencies and their hard work on behalf of the American people during the 1940s through today

On April 10, 1790, President George Washington signed the bill that laid the foundation of the modern American patent system. For over 200 years the patent system has encouraged the genius of hundreds of thousands of inventors.

During the 1940s, several recognizable and valuable patents were issued that have contributed significantly to American culture and society and changed the way we live. One such patent pioneered the way we see animated movies. On May 31, 1940, Walter E. Disney received Patent #2,201,689 for improvements in the art of producing animated cartoons. Disney’s patent was for a multi-plane camera that allowed for a more realistic three-dimensional image as well as depth and richness to the animation. His invention enabled him to move from the standard animated short films to feature-length animation.

Acting Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank Highlights Skills Initiatives in Madison, Wisconsin

Image of a "truck classrom": Bringing the Classroom to the Community

President Obama recently laid out plans in his State of the Union address to foster an economy that’s built to last by ensuring that America has the highly skilled workers necessary for 21st century jobs. Yesterday, Acting Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Madison, Wisconsin, where she visited the Madison Area Technical College, a training ground for students that leads directly to skilled manufacturing jobs nationwide. Blank met with students and sat in on a training class focused on hybrid vehicle technology. Blank also delivered remarks on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce training and met with business and university leaders. Commerce’s Economic Development Administration recently teamed up with Madison College to provide mobile technical training opportunities both on-campus and throughout the region. The training focused on advanced manufacturing and automotive technology.

Blank also visited with several business and academic leaders, who are vital partners in the area of technical training at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.

Congressional Staff Hears from i6 Challenge Winners

Hill staff listen to one of the i6 winners

Commerce Department grantees provide updates on projects to promote innovation and commercialization in regions of Ore., Ohio, Pa., Fla. and Ga.

To highlight the economic impact of Obama administration investments to promote American Innovation and accelerate the commercialization of research to the marketplace, the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) hosted the first 21st Century Economic Capitol Hill Briefing on the new COMPETES law on January 19, 2012.

Awardees of the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s (OIE) i6 Challenge came to Washington D.C. to brief Congress on how federal funds are promoting regional economic and job growth. OIE, which was authorized under the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, supports efforts to foster innovation ecosystems and the commercialization of new technologies, products, processes, and services.

Close to 60 Congressional staffers gathered at the Capitol Visitors Center in Washington, D.C., to hear first-hand from four i6 Challenge awardees: David Kenney and Dr. Patricia Beckman of the Oregon Built Environment and Sustainable Technologies Center of Portland, Oregon; Dr. Thomas O’Neal and Wayne Hodges of the Global Center for Medical Innovation of Atlanta, Georgia; Dr. Art Boni of Carnegie Mellon University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Dr. Wayne Watkins of the University of Akron Research Foundation of Akron, Ohio.

A Look Ahead to 2012: NTIA by the Numbers

National Broadband Map

In the coming year, the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will continue its focus on three key areas: expanding high speed Internet access and adoption, freeing up more spectrum for wireless broadband, and promoting policies that preserve the Internet as an engine for innovation and economic growth. Here are some numbers to illustrate these challenges.  Shown: National Broadband Map

Acting Secretary Blank and USPTO Director Kappos Join President Obama at the America Invents Act Signing Ceremony

President Barack Obama signs the America Invents Act into law at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia, Sept. 16, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

At a ceremony at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia, President Obama today signed the America Invents Act into law, representing historic patent reform legislation that will help American entrepreneurs and businesses bring their inventions to market sooner, creating new businesses and new jobs. Passed with the president’s consistent leadership and strong bipartisan support, the America Invents Act represents the most significant reform of the Patent Act since 1952, and will help American companies and inventors who have suffered costly delays and unnecessary litigation focus on innovation and job creation.

Innovation is the primary source of economic growth, job creation,
and U.S. competitiveness in today’s global economy. An efficiently operating intellectual property system is critical to our ability to spur innovation and bring new services and products to the marketplace faster. For investors, patents are strong indicators of market potential for new companies; and for inventors, they are often vital to attracting investment. 

"Our success in creating the conditions that spur new ideas, and our commitment to investing in the education, research and development priorities that help shape our country’s innovation infrastructure, will determine the opportunities of future generations,” Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank said. “These issues will determine whether or not America is home to the industries that will fuel economic growth–and the jobs that come with it - in the 21st century.”

Aneesh Chopra, on the White House Blog, said, "By transitioning to a simpler, more objective, and more inventor-friendly system of issuing patents, the new Act helps ensure that independent inventors and small entities have greater clarity and certainty over their property rights and will be able to navigate the patent system on a more equitable footing with large enterprises."

The Act also establishes a new in-house review process for challenging patents—a process that is faster and significantly cheaper than litigation, which too often stymies technological growth. By resolving disputes about patent rights earlier, more efficiently, and at lower cost, we can  add greater certainty to—and cultivate greater confidence it—the American patent system."

United States Patent and Trademark Office Director David Kappos and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra hosted an Open for Questions event on at 5:00 p.m. EDT on Friday, September 16th. If you missed it, you can watch the entire Q&A session on the White House blog.

National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship Holds Public Forum at Howard University

NACIE participants around table with Locke

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke addressed a town hall-style public forum at Howard University’s School of Business in Washington, D.C. today as part of a meeting of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE). In his remarks to students, faculty, administrators and business leaders, Locke praised the Council for its ongoing efforts to accelerate innovation and entrepreneurship, and to help America win the future by out-innovating, out-educating and out-building our economic competitors.

Locke thanked the Council for their recommendations and highlighted the importance of NACIE’s work in creating policies that support President Obama’s innovation agenda by improving America’s economic competitiveness and meeting the needs of America’s entrepreneurs.


First announced in 2009 and authorized in 2011 America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, the Council advises the Secretary of Commerce on key innovation and entrepreneurship issues and engages with the public and stakeholders to promote effective public policies and regulations.

Safeguarding 21st Century Innovation

Stanek Rea, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office

Guest blog post by Teresa Stanek Rea who is Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

The economic security and vitality of the United States has always been deeply rooted in American innovation. Time and time again, the story of our growth has been written by the daring drive of entrepreneurs, willing to roll the dice on a great idea. Today, I had the privilege to hear from a group of such bold thinkers in Minneapolis, Minn., and I learned that instrumental to 21st century growth is a 21st century infrastructure that readily allows small businesses to protect their ideas and move them to the marketplace swiftly and cost-effectively.

That’s why the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has been working diligently with the White House to build a stronger, more efficient patent system.

Secretary Locke Visits Research Triangle for Public Forum on Innovation, Entrpreneurship and Education

Steve Case, right, listens as Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke talks during a meeting of leading innovative thinkers and entrepreneurs who make up President Barack Obama’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke was joined by North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill today to participate in the first town hall-style public forum of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE) and discuss the importance of education to U.S. competitiveness.  Today's press release
At the meeting, NACIE subcommittees presented updates to Locke and the full Council on their work developing recommendations on how to better incentivize innovation and entrepreneurship to help America win the future by out-innovating, out-educating and out-building our economic competitors.

Incorporating a wide range of stakeholder input, reports included initiatives to develop new cross-college, cross-disciplinary educational programs that connect business with science, math, technology and engineering fields and extend these programs to young people in underserved and low-income areas by involving community colleges in consortia for training and mentoring in innovation and entrepreneurial activities.