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Blog Category: STEM

SelectUSA Works for Puerto Rico

Alejandro J. García-Padilla, Governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico

Guest blog post by Alejandro J. García-Padilla, Governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico

Almost a year after we announced that Lufthansa Technik would establish an aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility in Puerto Rico, we are getting ready to celebrate the 2015 SelectUSA Investment Summit.

With an estimated economic impact of $2.2 billion over a 30-year period, Lufthansa Technik’s decision to establish an MRO site in Puerto Rico is a major strategic advancement for the Commonwealth’s economic development plan. The facility is well under construction and has secured JetBlue and Spirit Airlines as customers. The MRO is expected to begin servicing customers later this year.

Since I took office in January 2013, I have sought to diversify Puerto Rico’s economy by attracting foreign direct investment like Lufthansa Technik, a leading manufacturer and independent provider of technical services for the aviation industry.

And make no mistake, investing in Puerto Rico is investing in the United States. That is why, with the help of the Commerce Department’s Select USA program, we sought out Lufthansa Technik to create jobs that capitalize on the highly skilled workforce that our Island’s university system trains.

The MRO facility is helping to grow Puerto Rico’s aerospace and aviation industry, create high-skilled jobs, and stimulate science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. By 2016, up to 400 highly skilled workers will be employed there. Puerto Rico now has the infrastructure to train new aircraft mechanics, with the brand new Aerospace and Aviation Institute of Puerto Rico under development.

This deal was just the beginning of an exciting partnership between Puerto Rico and SelectUSA.  The Lufthansa Technik site is causing a positive ripple effect in the economy, spurring the growth of MRO suppliers.

I also recently announced that business technology consulting firm Infosys BPO will open a new center in Puerto Rico to serve the Island’s growing aviation sector. This investment is another example of foreign direct investment brought on by the ripple effects of the Lufthansa MRO. Infosys will utilize this new center to deliver complex order-to-cash business processes for clients in the aviation industry and create over 200 jobs. The company is looking to further expand its footprint in the region to service clients in the federal government sector and the healthcare industry.

I commend the work of President Obama’s Administration, which was instrumental in bringing Lufthansa Technik to the United States and creating hundreds of well paid jobs in Puerto Rico. I also express my deep gratitude to Vice President Biden, Secretary Pritzker and the SelectUSA Program for making these investments a reality.

The investment from Lufthansa Technik and its impact in the economy are proof that SelectUSA works. We look forward to a long partnership with SelectUSA.  

Northern California MBDA Business Centers Help Minority Entrepreneurs Enter Technology Transfer, Innovation Market

The San Francisco Minority Business Development Center signs partnership agreement with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in August, 2014.

Guest blog post by the San Francisco MBDA Business Center 

Led by National Director Alejandra Castillo, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) has been collaborating with the San Francisco MBDA Business Center (SFMBC), operated by ASIAN, Inc., to advance a groundbreaking technology transfer and innovation agenda.   

The SFMBC, along with its sister San Jose and Fresno MBDA Business Centers, serve the Greater San Francisco Bay Area, which is universally recognized as one of the world’s leading regions for technology innovation and entrepreneurship. Minority business entrepreneurs (MBEs) in this region are not short of innovative ideas and are all too eager to gain access to cutting-edge technologies from national laboratories and universities, especially in life sciences, IT, and clean technology sectors. We’re working diligently to get those MBEs into these emerging markets. 

In September 2014, the SFMBC began piloting MBDA’s strategic Technology Transfer and Innovation Program. Closely working with Director Castillo, we designed our pilot model to engage regional MBEs with technology transfer and innovation concepts in an effort to connect them with U.S. and international investors, including angel investors and venture capital firms, and conventional funding, as well as to assist them with developing strategic commercialization channels. 

To increase awareness among local and regional MBEs and partners we jointly launched the initiative with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)Keiretsu Forum, and other professional service partners in October 2014 at our regional 2014 Minority Enterprise Development Week conference in San Jose. 

At the invitation of Director Castillo, the San Francisco team also brought in its partners and presented the pilot model to national-level MBE audiences at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)’s "Innovations in STEM: National Priorities and NIST" Symposium in November 2014. 

As members of the Keiretsu Forum, the San Francisco and San Jose MBDA Business Center team actively participated in the Forum’s Angel Capital Expo that same month, connecting with regional MBEs and over 500 angel investors worldwide. In January 2015, the team was invited to the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, a gateway to connecting foreign investors with investment opportunities in cutting-edge U.S. technologies in life sciences. 

Commerce’s NIST Announces STEM Education Opportunities for Teachers and Undergraduates

Commerce’s NIST Announces STEM Education Opportunities for Teachers and Undergraduates

The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently announced they are accepting applications for two grant programs for middle school science teachers and for its annual NIST Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program. These programs underscore the importance of educating both our teachers and students in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). President Obama has set a priority of increasing the number of students and teachers who are proficient in these vital fields. Specifically, he has called on the nation to develop, recruit, and retain 100,000 excellent STEM teachers over the next ten years. 

The NIST Summer Institute for Middle School Science Teachers program is a two-week workshop at NIST's Gaithersburg, Md., campus, combining lectures, tours and hands-on activities that educators can recreate in their own classrooms. The program aims to increase teachers' understanding of the subjects they teach, provide materials and resources to implement what they have learned at NIST in the classroom, enhance their enthusiasm for science, increase teachers' understanding of how scientific research is carried out, and provide them with the opportunity to develop an ongoing network of scientists and engineers at NIST who will be available for consultation even after the NIST Summer Institute program has ended. 

The program is open to public school districts or accredited private educational institutes in the United States and/or its territories that offer general science classes at grade levels 6-8 are eligible to nominate teachers to participate. In both cases, teachers apply through their schools or school districts rather than individually. Applications must be received by March 13, 2015. Full details of the program, rules and the application process are available at grants.gov under funding opportunity 2015-NIST-SUMMER-INSTITUTE-01, or visithttp://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=270552

For teachers who have completed the Summer Institute Program in a previous year, NIST also is announcing grants in the Research Experience for Teachers (RET) Program. The aim is to provide two teachers with an opportunity to further their understanding of how scientific research is performed by participating in research at NIST for six continuous weeks. Selected teachers will work side by side with NIST research scientists and engineers on projects that combine research with direct applications tailored to developing, maintaining, advancing and enabling the measurement system for the nation. The research projects in which the teachers engage will be selected to be highly relevant to the teachers’ interests and the NIST mission. 

Applications for the RET Program must be received by March 18, 2015. Teachers must have completed the NIST Summer Institute program prior to applying to the RET Program. Full details of the program, rules and the application process are available at grants.gov under funding opportunity 2015-NIST-RET-01, or visit http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=270786

Calling Kids of All Ages: USPTO Launches Web Page Encouraging Invention and Science and Tech in School

Calling Kids of All Ages:  USPTO Launches Kids Page Encouraging Invention and Science and Tech in School

Did you know that only one U.S. president earned a patent? Do you know which one? Have you ever wondered where the famous expression “The Real McCoy” comes from?

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) launched a newly redesigned section of its website for kids, but not kids alone! Parents, teachers, and teens will find lots of resources as well as hands-on activities for anyone from preschool to high school. The website encourages students of all ages to engage making, inventing, and discovering the importance of intellectual property. The site also exposes future inventors and entrepreneurs to the inventive thinking process. 

When the children in your life check out the new USPTO KIDS! pages, they’ll discover interesting facts about inventors and learn how they can bring ‘creations of the mind’ to life!  

The website includes games, coloring pages, an audio library of sound marks, videos created by NBC Learn in collaboration with the USPTO and the National Science Foundation (NSF), Girl Scouts’ intellectual property patch activities, lesson plans for teachers, and a list of upcoming events. 

Students can explore collectible cards featuring interesting facts about past and current inventors from diverse walks of life. They’ll also see profiles of inventors their own age, such as Marissa Streng, who while still in elementary school received a utility patent for her dog dryer invention and is the owner of a federally registered trademark. Marissa’s story was featured earlier this year on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Another featured student, Rebecca Hyndman, received a patent for the invention of an under-floor that she designed as an 8th grader. Rebecca was called upon to introduce President Obama at the signing of a historic patent reform bill, the America Invents Act.  

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker Supports IP Protection at Commemoration of 700,000th Design Patent

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and a student at the Langdon Education Campus explore a LeapFrog handheld device, the 700,000th design patent awarded by the United States Patent and Trademark Office

Intellectual property protections are essential to helping unlock American innovation. Patents and trademarks give entrepreneurs the confidence and security they need to invest in new R&D, new businesses, and new employees. That confidence and security translates into $5 trillion of economic output at year -- a 2012 Commerce Department study found that industries that rely most heavily on IP protections support 40 million U.S. jobs and more than one-third of GDP. In order to help create the conditions for economic growth, the Commerce Department is making the country’s IP laws work even better.  

As part of these efforts, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker joined USPTO Deputy Director Michelle Lee and Commissioner for Patents Peggy Focarino today for a ceremony commemorating the 700,000th design patent. The patent was assigned to LeapFrog Enterprises, Inc. for the design of “Leapster Explorer,” a hand-held learning and play device for 4-to-9-year-olds, featuring a touch screen and 3D graphics.  At the ceremony, which took place at the Langdon Education Campus in Washington, DC, Secretary Pritzker and Deputy Director Lee presented the patent to Leapfrog Senior Vice President and General Counsel Robert Lattuga. 

Every day, USPTO is awarding more utility and design patents to entrepreneurs and businesses to help them grow, innovate, and compete. Last year alone, USPTO issued 22,000 applications for design patents, an 8 percent increase over the previous year.  A design consists of the visual, ornamental characteristics embodied in or applied to an article of manufacture. Applications in this area cover designs of computer equipment, cell phones and other handheld electronic devices, such as the Leapfrog Design Patent Number 700,000. 

The Obama Administration has been a strong supporter of efforts to make the patent system works more efficiently. President Obama recently announced a number of new executive actions to increase transparency in patent ownership, provide more training to patent examiners, and help inventors and small business owners who unexpectedly find themselves facing patent litigation. 

At today’s ceremony, USPTO also announced a new Intellectual Property patch for Girl Scouts in the National Capital Region (GSCNC). The new patch was developed as a joint project between the GSCNC and the USPTO, in collaboration with the Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation (IPO). The patch is designed to support curriculum and activities that increase understanding of IP, especially as it relates to the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Secretary Penny Pritzker Returns to Chicago for First Official Visit

Secretary Penny Pritzker Returns to Chicago for First Official Visit

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker returned to Chicago yesterday, making her first visit to her hometown in her official capacity as head of the Department.
 
Speaking at an event hosted by Google and World Business Chicago, a public-private partnership that seeks to foster private sector growth and jobs through the advancement of a business-friendly environment, Secretary Pritzker delivered remarks and participated in a “fireside chat” with Chicago Tribune reporter Melissa Harris.

She focused on the Obama administration’s efforts to grow the economy and create jobs, as well as some of her top priorities going forward: the need to invest in infrastructure, help workers develop skills for 21st century jobs, reform the immigration system and support R&D and innovation.
 
As Secretary Pritzker noted, infrastructure is critical to the economy. Unfortunately, the United States has deferred trillions of dollars in infrastructure investment over the years. Under President Obama’s leadership, however, the United States has improved 350,000 miles of roads, 6,000 miles of rail, and 20,000 bridges. The Commerce Department has deployed more than 100,000 miles of broadband since 2009.

Women in Silicon Valley Leading the Way

Deputy Secretary Blank speaks with female leaders at top venture capital firms in Silicon Valley

Guest blog post by Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank

Yesterday, I met with women who are fostering entrepreneurship and innovation in our economy through their leadership at top venture capital firms in Silicon Valley.

We discussed the need for more girls and women to be able to find opportunities in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, where women comprise less than one-fourth of the workforce. We also discussed how women are investing in and leading startups and businesses in key areas that support U.S. competitiveness, such as clean energy, healthcare, telecommunications, bioscience, and other fast-growing fields.

It's clear that women investors play a crucial role in helping ensure that the best private-sector ideas - including those coming from women entrepreneurs - get the resources they need to help build companies and create jobs.

Strengthening the role of women in business and technology is an important goal of the Obama Administration, supported by the White House Council on Women and Girls. The Commerce Department, for its part, offers post-doctoral research opportunities, scholarships, and unique experiences aimed at encouraging girls to consider fulfilling and rewarding careers in STEM fields. 

Businesses Need Common Sense Immigration Reform to Keep Growing, Creating American Jobs

Dr. Blank and members of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (photo: Colin Buckner, Silicon Valley Leadership Group)

Guest blog post by Dr. Rebecca Blank, Deputy Secretary of Commerce

Yesterday, I was in California to talk with business executives who are part of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. We discussed key issues facing them as they continue to grow, create jobs, and drive both innovation and competitiveness here in the U.S.

They just completed an annual survey of their own membership. The biggest business challenge that they identified was their ability to attract and retain a skilled workforce.

I let them know that President Obama understands that we are in a global competition for talent and we want the best people right here in the U.S.

Commerce’s USPTO Joins NSF and NBC Network in Launching Educational Series on Innovation

Science of Innovation banner

The U.S. Commerce Department’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) joined the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NBC Learn today in launching an 11-part “Science of Innovation” series to coincide with the 165th birthday of American inventor Thomas Edison. The program represents the latest intellectual property (IP) education efforts by the USPTO and serves as a public-private partnership leveraging the best strengths of federal agencies, industry, and educators to demonstrate the connection between IP and the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Narrated by NBC News’ Ann Curry, the series features innovators from across the country, including scientists and engineers working on projects in industries as diverse as healthcare, energy, transportation, agriculture, and more. “Science of Innovation” looks beyond the popular concept of innovation as the result of a single event or brilliant idea. Instead, it examines the processes and steps that anyone from a garage tinkerer to a federally-funded scientist can take to discover new solutions to pressing problems or to add value in new ways to existing products, services or technologies.

“The USPTO has promoted the progress of science and invention since 1790,” said Teresa Stanek Rea, Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Acting Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. “Education is the key to encouraging today’s children to become tomorrow’s innovators. These videos and lesson plans are great tools for teachers everywhere to help students learn about intellectual property, while inspiring them to connect the process of innovation with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education.”

Segments feature innovators working on cutting-edge innovations, including bionic limbs, biofuels, anti-counterfeiting devices, and 3-D printing. A full list of videos can be found online at http://www.nbclearn.com/innovation/

NOAA Announces $4.5 Million in Environmental Literacy Grants to Support K-12 Science Education and Stewardship Projects

Students and teachers explore global data visualizations with NOAA’s Science On a Sphere at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry (MSI).  The sphere will serve as a focal point for K-12 teacher professional development programs at MSI, which is one of eight new recipients of NOAA Environmental Literacy Grants.  (Photo credit:  MSI)

Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Wednesday that it is awarding eight new education grants to enhance science education activities in classrooms, aquariums, museums and other institutions across America. These awards support six unique, multi-year projects and will share $4.5 million in grants from the NOAA Office of Education’s Environmental Literacy Grants Program. Projects are designed to increase stewardship and informed decision-making within a diverse pool of educators, students and the public to help promote environmental literacy.

“NOAA’s Office of Education is proud to partner with such an impressive group of organizations,” said Louisa Koch, director of education at NOAA. “It is only with the help of institutions such as these that we can successfully engage the public in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) topics while supporting NOAA’s mission of science, service, and stewardship."

The projects receiving grant funding focus on engaging formal and informal educators along with K-12 students. Project activities include formal K-12 educator training programs to help teachers incorporate NOAA data and other resources into experiential learning activities; service learning programs for K-12 students that combine standards-based learning with stewardship activities in students’ local communities; and professional development to enhance informal science educators’ effectiveness in increasing public understanding of complex ocean topics. The selected projects will partner with NOAA’s research laboratories, national marine sanctuaries, Climate Program Office, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Weather Service, Pacific Services Center, Coral Reef Conservation Program and Sea Grant.  NOAA release