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Remarks at Launch of "Startup America" Initiative

Monday, January 31, 2011


You know, there are a lot of explanations for why America experienced the slowest job growth from 2001-2008 of any comparable period since World War II.

But I think one of the fundamental problems is that America lost sight of our true economic strengths.

Innovation.  Technology.  Scientific progress.  And entrepreneurs taking risk in pursuit of a great idea. 

The “Startup America” initiative is all about reconnecting with that tradition. 

And I’d like to talk briefly about some measures the Department of Commerce is taking as part of this effort.

First, we’re building on the success of last year’s i6 Challenge,  an innovative, $12 million competitive grant program that rewarded teams across the country that are taking cutting-edge research out of the labs and getting it into the hands of entrepreneurs who can turn that research into new businesses and new jobs. 

This year, we’re repeating the i6 challenge, but this time with a focus on communities with novel strategies to spur the development of clean-energy-related industries in their region.

I think it's important to note here that the i6 challenge exemplifies the Obama administration’s approach to spurring economic growth: We’re helping local communities identify their own strengths and providing resources that will help them build on them.

It’s exactly the same thing the Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration is doing with its effort to help cities and towns across the country by funding regional innovation clusters.

For example, EDA was recently part of a multi-agency effort that awarded $129 million to cultivate an innovation cluster in Philadelphia’s Navy Yard designed to develop energy efficient buildings. 

And you’ll see more grants just like that in 2011.

As many of you know, our U.S. Patent and Trademark Office plays a key role in promoting innovation and entrepreneurship.    But as you also probably know, there’s an unacceptably long backlog of patents awaiting examination, and that’s not good for America’s innovators.

So now the USPTO has proposed a flexible process for approving patents, one that responds to the needs of individual innovators and the marketplace. While it now takes on average almost three years to get a patent, with the new system, applicants would be able to seek accelerated examination – what we refer to as Track One – and get a patent within 12 months for a cost-recovery-based fee.

Under the new system, a technology entrepreneur with a product ready to go to market who needs VC funding will be able to get her patent within 12 months, while an entrepreneur who has a more embryonic idea and needs time and wants to save fees will be able to opt for the slower schedule – or Track Three. 

Overall, this new system will bring the most valuable patents – as determined by inventors – to market faster, and will help shrink the backlog by catering to the business needs of innovators.

We anticipate publishing more information about the proposed Track One rule in the federal register this week to allow the public an opportunity to tell us what they think of the idea.

What’s clear is that we can’t be content doing what we’ve always done in the face of global competition that’s tougher than ever, not if we want to compete and win in the future.

The Kauffman foundation estimates that the most important contributor to a nation’s economic growth is the number of startups that grow to a billion dollars in revenue within 20 years.

To maintain America's historic average growth rate, we need 100 companies like that every single year.

You can be sure that the Commerce Department will be doing everything in our power to move us towards that goal, and that this administration is committed to empowering the entrepreneurs that can make it happen.