innovation

Declining innovation funding threatens future economy

Two recent reports highlight the importance of funding innovation in the U.S., and give a glimpse into the perils of ignoring it. The reports, from The Aspen Institute and Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF), independently corroborate the role of the public sector in ensuring a more prosperous future through innovation. The Aspen report, An Innovation Challenge for the United States, warns that the innovation culture forged in this country following World War II is now at risk, while the ITIF report focuses on the dwindling support for higher education from both the state and federal levels and details how such changes could negatively impact the research and development efforts that help build the innovation economy.

Pennsylvania faces challenges, but has assets in innovation

An early national leader in technology-based economic development (TBED), Pennsylvania now faces several challenges in order to keep up with other states and regions, according to Ideas for Pennsylvania Innovation: Examining Efforts by Competitor States and National Leaders, a new report from the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings. It cites the Ben Franklin Technology Partnership as an important early-stage investor and national TBED model and notes that the state “has historically been an innovation leader and Pennsylvania retains a stable of effective, scalable innovation assets.            

Top questions to ask when planning an innovation district

Innovation districts show promise as an economic development tool, but there are a range of questions policymakers, practitioners and planners should consider prior to and while pursuing the strategy, according to new research from RTI International’s Center for Applied Economics and Strategy. In Planning for an Innovation District: Questions for Practitioners to Consider, authors Sara Lawrence, Michael Hogan and Elizabeth Brown describe the innovation district phenomenon, define key-terms and concepts, and highlight empirical evidence that offers reasons for why they might find success as an economic development tool. For example, research shows that networks matter for fostering innovation, and that these types of networks can be more impactful when they are in close proximity. The authors also propose 20 questions across economic, physical and social dimensions that are worthy of attention.

Benchmark report reveals threats to US science, tech leadership

While the U.S. continues to lead the world in science, technology and innovation, other nations are on track to catch and surpass the lead the country currently holds, according to a new report from the Task Force on American Innovation (TFIA). In Second Place America? Increasing Challenges to U.S. Scientific Leadership, TFIA, a non-partisan alliance of leading American companies and business associations, research university associations, and scientific societies, benchmarks the U.S. against other nations in R&D investment, knowledge production, education, workforce and high-tech sectors of the economy. The report holds that to maintain a global leadership status, which it calls critical to national security and future economic growth and prosperity, a renewed national commitment to invest in key federal science agencies such as NSF, Department of Energy, Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health, NASA and the National Institute of Standards and Technology is necessary.

Roadmap provided for university research and tech commercialization

As a bedrock of American innovation, universities and federal laboratories research and develop new products that help drive economic growth. A new study from the Economic Growth Institute at the University of Michigan aims to improve national competitiveness in this arena by providing a roadmap for universities that includes best practices on translating research from the lab to the marketplace.

Report finds opportunities for states, locals to advance clean energy innovation

A recent report by Breakthrough Energy, co-chaired by former Energy secretary Ernest Moniz, calls for a better policy approach to supporting clean energy. Their premise is that America has led the way in this industry, but that the way forward requires innovation on a greater scale than we have achieved before, and that this, in turn, requires better coordination of systems. The report makes recommendations for industry and all levels of government, and their proposals regarding regions should be particularly welcomed by the SSTI community.

Recent Research: Exposure to innovation more important than financial incentives in increasing the number of inventors, researchers find

Recent research revealed that exposure to innovation (e.g., mentorship program and immersive K-12 STEM education experience) during childhood and young adulthood has a greater effect on the decision to pursue careers in innovation than financial incentives. Researchers Alexander M. Bell, Raj Chetty, and their co-authors developed a model to analyze the impact of several factors on inventor career choices. After conducting an analysis using the model, the authors predict that financial incentives, such as top income tax reductions, have limited potential to increase aggregate innovation because they only affect individuals who are exposed to innovation and have no impact on the decisions of star inventors, who matter the most for aggregate innovation.

SSTI Feature: Epicenter Memphis seeking big impact in regional innovation network

A note from the publisher (aka, Dan Berglund): Two of the most frequent questions SSTI staff is asked are: “What program, initiative, movement has piqued your interest?” and, “Who should we be watching and learning from?” While the answers are somewhat implied in what we cover in The Digest, host webinars on, and feature in conference content, look for occasional pieces in 2019 labeled “SSTI Feature” that offer a sampling of our answers to those questions.

New Farm Bill programs aim to cultivate rural innovation

The latest Farm Bill, expected to be signed into law Thursday, contains provisions that could provide significant new tools for rural innovations. The two greatest opportunities are the Rural Innovation Stronger Economy (RISE) grant program, which creates an innovation cluster and strategy program for rural regions, and a change to allow the existing Community Facilities program to support incubators, makerspaces, and job training centers.

Rhode Island announces $12 million for Innovation Campus projects

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo has announced the first three projects for the state’s Innovation Campus Program, an effort to support the commercialization of academic research in key industries such as cybersecurity, data analytics and agricultural technology. The centers, in partnership with the University of Rhode Island and located in Kingston and Providence, will receive a combined $12 million from the state. The funding stems from a $20 million innovation bond approved by the state’s voters in 2016.

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