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U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Delivers Remarks on Ensuring U.S. Innovation Leadership

At an event hosted by the Churchill Club, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today spoke at the Plug and Play Tech Center in Silicon Valley, where she highlighted the Administration’s commitment to spurring U.S. economic growth, innovation, and competitiveness.  In her speech, Secretary Pritzker described how the Commerce Department is helping create the conditions that lead to innovation through investments in digital infrastructure, intellectual property protection, advanced manufacturing, and more.  She announced two new efforts to unleash more federal data for entrepreneurs and businesses, which are being spearheaded by the Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Census Bureau.  Secretary Pritzker also emphasized the need for broader efforts to strengthen America’s innovation ecosystem, including more federal investments in R&D, additional trade and investment opportunities, and the passage of commonsense immigration reform. Noting the significant progress that the Administration has made to support science and technology, Secretary Pritzker detailed how President Obama has done more for innovation than any other American President.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Thank you Karen and Saeed for that warm introduction.  A big thanks to the Churchill Club for convening this terrific event today.  Your organization deserves great credit for stimulating conversations that create solutions benefiting all of us.

I also want to thank the other sponsors of this event and our host Plug-and-Play, where revolutionary ideas are turned into companies that enrich our lives. 

And a special thanks to Jeff Weiner of LinkedIn, one of the most dynamic CEOs in our country.  Among many things, Jeff is focused on an issue that is near and dear to my heart – arming people for the jobs of the future.  I can’t wait to hear more about this endeavor.

I want to start our conversation with a confession: I am a Silicon Valley girl at heart.

My family moved to the Bay Area when I was one.  I went to Castilleja School in Palo Alto, and I came back to graduate school at Stanford.  As I tell my children, I remember San Jose when it was full of fruit orchards.

The Valley is not only a place of majestic beauty – it is also a dynamic and innovative ecosystem that is envied not just across the United States but throughout the world.  You have something special that every city wants to emulate.

Much of what makes America unique is our spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship, and the Valley is integral to this record.  Today, the United States has 6 million workers employed in technology and the highest concentration of knowledge and technology intensive industries in the world, representing 40 percent of our GDP. 

For the past seven months, I have traveled across the country to incubators like Plug-and-Play -- talking to innovators and CEOs alike. 

In Nashville, at the Entrepreneur Center, I saw a startup that builds apps connecting doctors and patients to each other. In Iowa, I visited Dwolla, a startup that built a network to transfer money between businesses without using a bank. In Washington, DC, at a tech incubator called 1776, I unveiled the Commerce Department’s policy priorities. And in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show – I saw technologies in everything from cars to thermostats to wearable health devices – that will improve our lives.

Meeting with entrepreneurs, inventors, venture capitalists, and others across our country makes me bullish about America’s economic future. 

Often in my travels, I wish I could have more members of our talented Commerce team with me -- to see first-hand -- our engines of innovation. 

Today, I am very pleased that a number of top leaders from our “Innovation Team” are here.  This includes:

Pat Gallagher, my Deputy, who also serves at the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Larry Strickling, who leads the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Michelle Lee, who leads our Patent and Trademark Office.  In fact, she came from Google.

Joe Klimavicz, our CIO at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (and that’s the fish and National Weather Service).

Joshua Mandell, my policy advisor on all things innovation.

Our head of NOAA – Dr. Kathy Sullivan – could not be here as she is in DC briefing the President and Western Governors on helping with the impact of the drought.  We know this drought has hit California hard, and we are doing everything we can to help.

This team – and others – work closely with you to ensure that our nation remains the global epicenter of innovation.  For us to keep up with your pace of change, this leadership team is breaking down silos throughout our agency.  I like to call this our “Commerce Mash-Up.” 

Over the next few days, this team will fan out across the Valley to bring the Department of Commerce – us – closer to our customers – all of you.

This effort is central to our new “Open for Business Agenda,” which includes a keen focus on helping set the conditions for innovation, improving our competiveness, opening markets, and unlocking more federal data for greater economic benefit.

With the country moving at warp speed toward the “Internet of Everything” – our goal at the Department of Commerce as a service organization is to support you – whether you are a researcher, inventor, entrepreneur, mentor, or investor. 

You might ask:  How? -- How do we interface with you and support you? 

First, we are protecting your ideas through our Patent and Trademark Office.  To be closer to our customers, we recently opened one of our new satellite patent offices here in Silicon Valley. We are streamlining the patent process and reducing patent backlogs so that new products and designs get into the marketplace faster.

In addition, we are focused on delivering patent reform that balances the protection of your ideas with curbing the abuses in the IP system such as patent trolling.  We are improving transparency of patent ownership, tightening scrutiny on patent claims that are too broad, and helping small businesses that unexpectedly face patent litigation. 

And, last week, the President announced a series of new executive orders that will make our patent system even stronger. This reform will allow American companies to remain focused on innovation, not expensive litigation.

But you might not be aware of all of the other ways that the Commerce Department is your “Innovation Department:”

We invest in digital infrastructure, deploying 110,000 miles of broadband in the last four years.  We also make spectrum available for businesses, and we advocate to ensure that the Internet remains free and open on a global scale.

We advance technology development through the best science, the right standards, and by supporting R&D. We produce and share important data from our Economic Statistics Administration, Census and NOAA. We support entrepreneurship and start-ups through regional investments, and through my role as the Chair of the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship.

Our team is also engaged – at the President’s request – in the current Administration review of big data and privacy that is being led by John Podesta.  This process is meant to explore how to promote the free flow of information while also supporting privacy and security.

And for the first time ever, we are working with the Departments of Labor and Education to match our workers to good jobs.  That means more industry-led training, widely-recognized and stackable credentials, and apprenticeships.  All of this will help American workers climb ladders of opportunity.

Today, I am pleased to make two new announcements that will drive even more innovation and opportunity.  Both of these efforts are focused on unleashing data.

Each day, NOAA collects and produces 20 terabytes of environmental data – from weather forecasts to climate change to ocean currents.  This is twice the data of the entire printed collection of the Library of Congress.  Yet, only a small percentage of this valuable data, roughly two terabytes, is made easily accessible to the public. 

To address this problem, I am pleased to announce a new Request for information – the first step toward a public-private partnership that will enable more companies and communities to extract this data for creative uses. This new partnership will unlock more weather and climate information to stimulate the creation of new industries, boost economic growth, and spur employment. 

Why is this important?  Consider the following: Weather and climate-sensitive industries in the U.S. account for roughly one-third of GDP.  

I know first-hand the value of putting more data in hands of entrepreneurs.  Twenty five years ago I built my first startup with the help of information from the Census Bureau.

Which leads me to the second announcement. We have a tool called Census Explorer, an interactive map that shows basic demographics of Americans around the country.  Today, we are adding tech workforce and payroll data to those maps so that entrepreneurs and business leaders like you can see where tech workers are geographically concentrated.  You will now be able to look at tech employment in regions like this one along with other factors like education, labor-force participation, and home ownership rates.

Check it out.  Census Explorer.

Overall, we are making the federal government’s information easier to use.

In fact, our weekly economic indicators will now be available in API open format. This will allow entrepreneurs to directly use government-generated data to launch new products, apps, and startups – while allowing you and your businesses make better decisions about investments and hiring.

But we must not stop there. Our job at the Commerce Department also involves advocating for policies to grow our economy.

As such, we must invest more in research and development. 

In the 1960s, it was government support of R&D that helped build this Valley.  And since taking office, President Obama has consistently pushed for increases in R&D – but we must do more. 

For example, the President has called for a national network of manufacturing innovation institutes where companies – large and small -- in partnership with universities can partner in “pre-competitive research.”

Another way to grow our economy is by increasing trade and investment.  Today, 95 percent of customers are outside our borders and export-related jobs pay 18 percent more on average.  You – the leaders in the technology sector – know how critical it is to sell your products in foreign markets.

Thus, we must move forward with potential new trade agreements with both Asia-Pacific and Europe – involving two-thirds of global GDP. 

And we must give President Obama what other presidents have had -- trade promotion authority to open new markets while protecting our workers and our environment. 

We must also pass immigration reform, which I believe is both a moral obligation and an economic opportunity for our country.  The fabric of America is one woven by immigrants.  That is especially true here in California – a place where many come seeking a better life. 

Andy Grove of Intel.  Sergey Brin of Google.  Jerry Yang of Yahoo.  They are examples of the 40 percent of Silicon Valley firms founded by immigrants. 

Joining us today is Reynaldo Gil, the founder and CEO of ReyLabs.  Originally from Cuba and the son of a factory worker, he enrolled in a job-training program at age 18 and learned software development.

Reynaldo is a serial entrepreneur.  He launched a company that supported cloud computing for supply chains.  And today, he and his wife Linda (also here) are creating sensor systems that detect problems in urban properties and affordable housing.  He has also started a nonprofit for immigrant students and entrepreneurs. 

Immigration reform will grow our economy by an estimated $1.4 trillion dollars over the next two decades and reduce the deficit. 

Reform will also attract and keep the best minds in America by providing visas to foreign entrepreneurs looking to start businesses here… and green cards to those who obtain a masters or Ph.D. in STEM fields.

Ladies and gentlemen, people like Reynaldo enrich us.  This is why immigration reform matters – and why we must get it done.

The bottom line is that we must use all of the tools in our economic toolkit to help our economy grow – that also includes building first-class infrastructure and enacting smart business tax reform.

Before I close, let me just say that I am proud to work with a President that has done so much for innovation, science and technology. 

Let’s look at the facts:

He put in place historic investments in digital infrastructure and clean energy, doubling renewable production for wind and solar. He launched the Startup America initiative to accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship with $2 billion dollars in public and private resources. He worked to strengthen our leadership in fundamental research. He signed into law measures like the JOBS Act that are making it easier for innovative companies to go public and expand their workforce. He helped save the auto industry and required new fuel efficiency standards that have helped make America’s fleet cleaner and more innovative than ever. He established the first ever National Chief Technology Officer. He is creating dynamic manufacturing innovation hubs throughout the country in 3D printing, lightweight metals, power electronics, and digital manufacturing and design.

And yes, he delivered health care reform that has helped keep health care price inflation at its lowest growth rate in 50 years.  This is reducing “job lock,” giving entrepreneurs the flexibility and security to take risks without worrying about whether they become ill. 

The New York Times reported just yesterday that the law can be a “boon to entrepreneurs” and another noted technology writer said it is fostering a “start-up frenzy.”

Simply put, I believe that President Obama has done more for innovation than any other President in history.

In closing, my commitment to you is that the Department of Commerce will be your voice for innovation, discovery, and entrepreneurship in the Administration. 

It is innovation hubs like Plug and Play and the many others I have visited across the country that are key ingredients to driving America’s economic comeback.  The ingenuity, grit, and resilience of you – our innovators, our workers, and our businesses – has resulted in 2.4 million new jobs created last year. 

And while we have more work to do to lift incomes, expand opportunity and help businesses with the tools they need to grow and hire, both the President and I are optimistic about America’s future.  

It was here at Plug and Play that PayPal, Dropbox and many other companies were born.  The world watches what happens within these walls and in the Silicon Valley, where anything is possible and anyone with a good idea can rise to the top. 

The reason is simple.  All of your – the dreamers, innovators and investors here today – represent the best of America. 

You are open for ideas.  You are open for innovation. And you are open for business, just like America is Open for Business.

Thank you so much for giving me the honor to speak with you today.