Obama’s Reinvestment Act: Overlooking Innovation

Today Obama will sign his economic stimulus package, the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009. That is great news.. our economy does really need help now! From the looks of the details at American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 it seems that US scientific, engineering and technical R&D communities fared well. Agencies such as NSF, NIH, NASA as well as energy research will be beneficiaries. K through-12 and higher education are also well supported.

All of this is extremely important for seeding innovation and therefore revitalization and transformation of the American Economy. Nevertheless the full benefit of this investment will not come about unless companies and government become more adept at breakthrough innovation which, as we have said often, requires much more than just investment in R&D.

In this regard one disappointing development is that no stimulus funding was approved for the Technology Innovation Program or the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program at the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST). These are two programs that were invaluable to radical innovation projects described in our first book Radical Innovation: How mature companies can outsmart upstarts. Such programs help bridge the chasm between technology discovery and building technology related products and businesses. We need to work hard at getting these and other sorts of innovation-enabling programs funded in the future. Which reminds me that instead of a Chief Technology Officer which is a late twentieth century idea, what Obama really needs to help him achieve the goal of economic rejuvenation is a Chief Innovation Officer.

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