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Notes from Innovation Policyworks
Do you think it's a coincidence that there's a 1:1 correlation between states that rank in the bottom 50th percentile on the New Economy and states that voted for Trump? I don't. It makes sense that the populist fervor is coming from places that feel left behind in our decades-long transition to the New Economy. I'm convinced, however, that neither of the current political narratives will turn things around. Neither small government and lower taxes, nor increased distribution of wealth will help.

What's needed is a third approach-one that focuses on spurring innovation, boosting productivity and improving global competitiveness. We need to ensure that our workforce has the education and skills to have a place at the table - meaning STEM education, retraining AND importing workers from away to shore up places with diminishing populations. And it means a concerted investment in broadband infrastructure and R&D focused on value-added agriculture and aquaculture, and energy production.
For a detailed look at this strategy, visit the website for the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the leading US Science and tech policy think tank, led by Rob Atkinson. http://www.itif.org

Book Review: 
Engines of Innovation: The Entrepreneurial University in the Twenty-first Century
by Holden Thorp and Buck Goldstein.
 I'm starting a new project to develop an economic development framework for a metropolitan university so when Amazon suggested that I might be interested in this book, I went for it. Turns out it was a great suggestion. The authors are a chemist, biotech entrepreneur and former Chancellor of the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill and a professor of entrepreneurship who write convincingly about the opportunity for universities to lead through innovation and so contribute to economic growth. They define entrepreneurs as change-agents and entrepreneurship as a way of thinking and doing that can increase the impact of innovation. And, they believe that the university is the best place for entrepreneurship that can tackle "wicked" problems like poverty, climate change, and the impending shortage of clean water. The book's vision is clearly aspirational, as Thorp left UNC-CH only three years into his initiative Innovate@Carolina, but nonetheless offers some practical ideas for advancing the slow-to-change bureaucracy that comprises a large university. 

Climate Change, Cities and Economic Development
Seventy percent of Americans believe that there is solid evidence of global warming, about the same number as in 2008. And, those who accept the existence of climate change are significantly more confident in their stance (71%) than in 2008 (58%). However, a record 59% of those who do not believe in global warming are also very confident, suggesting that many Americans are not open to changing their opinion on this issue. For more information, see the Muhlenberg College and University of Michigan National Survey on Energy and the Environment (NSEE).
However, this divide is not stopping US mayors who recently penned an open letter to President-Elect Trump vowing to continue their efforts to fight climate change. The letter said, in part, "While we are prepared to forge ahead even in the absence of federal support, we know that if we stand united on this issues, we can make change that will resonate for generations. We have no choice and no room to doubt our resolve. The time for bold leadership and action is now."
More than 1,000 cities joined an effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions through a wide variety of initiatives, from buying electric vehicles to making municipal buildings more energy efficient to supporting green technology startups. In Portland, OR, for instance, Mayor Charlie Hayes said that there have been 46,900 jobs associated with green initiatives in his city.
A new report from E2 documents employment nationally from energy efficiency initiatives. The survey, done in part for the US Dept. of Energy, documents 1.9 million energy efficiency jobs in every state, with the largest per capita impacts in Vermont, Massachusetts, Wyoming, West Virginia and Alaska. DATA HERE

Governing and Business Are Quite Different
"I'm a smart guy (or gal). I can figure this out." I heard this all summer as we recruited for the Executive Director of the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development. We're seeing it now in the appointees to President-elect Trump's cabinet. We've seen it for years in economic development, especially the appointment of successful entrepreneurs or venture capitalists to run incubators and other entrepreneurial support programs.  The assumption that many people make is that being good in business is the same as being good in government.
I argue that business acumen is necessary, but not sufficient for economic development. The skills sets required to get anything done in government are in fact extremely different from business; Phillip Joyce's recent commentary in Governing lists the ways:

  • In government, we need to be accountable to the public interest. There is no equivalent in business.
  • Private sector focuses on profitability, while government is about the achievement of specific outcomes.
  • Compromise is fundamental to success in the public sector.
  • Government must constantly confront competing values; efficiency isn't the only one.
  • Government has a short time horizon, usually two years (due to the election cycle).
  • Government actions take place in public, with scrutiny from the press and the public.
To this list, I would add that the operations of economic development organizations also require a firm grasp of macroeconomics, fiscal and tax policy. Specialized entities like incubators and accelerators also have a well-defined set of best practices. While there is always room for innovation, there is no excuse for starting from scratch, recreating the wheel or whatever metaphor you like. And the lessons learned in a single business or startup may not extend to a broad range of startups.
So, if you want to get something done in a public sector setting, I recommend getting someone with experience in both the public and private sectors.  Been there, done that, got the tee shirt.

Historic Preservation Saves Cities
Looking at historic assets in 50 US cities, a recent study found that areas with only new buildings are less likely to promote entrepreneurial activity, density and diversity than areas with a mixture of old and new.  High character areas tend to be denser, more diverse, more affordable and provide more opportunity. Fifty-nine percent of small business jobs are found in high character areas, as well as 56 percent of affordable housing units and 80% of women and minority-owned businesses. Check out your city HERE.

In This Issue - December 2016

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Quote of the Month 
" Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning."
Albert Einstein

21st Century Cures Act Signed Into Law
Congress has passed and President Obama has signed the 21st Century Cures Act. 

The new law increases funding for the National Institutes of Health, advances precision medicine and improves the environment for the development of life-saving drugs and treatments. 

The bill provides for $4.8 billion in new funding for the National Institutes of Health; of that, $1.8 billion is reserved for the "cancer moonshot" launched by Vice President Biden to accelerate research in that field. Another $1.6 billion is earmarked for brain diseases including Alzheimer's. Also included are $500 million in new funding for the Food and Drug Administration and $1 billion in grants to help states deal with opioid abuse. 

Streamlining drug approval processes brought some progressive dissenters including Senators Bernie Saunders and Elizabeth Warren who felt that the safety of patients was sacrificed to "Big Pharma." 

Igniting a Culture of Innovators
Corporate innovators are a rare breed, largely because big companies like to talk about innovation, but rarely do what's necessary to create the culture where innovation and innovators can survive. Alex Goryachev suggests that there are seven principles that allow employees to become "rock-star entrepreneurs."
  1. Corporate innovators need a grassroots disruption from co-conspirators across the company.
  2. Innovators can come from anywhere, not just engineering or R&D.
  3. Innovators tap into their own passions and motivations.
  4. Innovators ignite more value collaborating on cross-functional teams.
  5. Innovations need direction, strategy and resources to guide the way.
  6. Mentors and coaches are more important than managers.
  7. Empower employees to experiment, take risks and fail.
Goryachev says, "Companies must fully commit to disruptive change, ignite innovation across the enterprise and nourish a startup culture where employees can become entrepreneurs. Focus on the innovator - not the innovation." MORE

Cintas- A Real-life Innovation Story
Cintas, a company that supplies uniforms and other facility-related products, recently introduced a new line of unique, patented mats, normally considered a commodity item. The three lessons offered up?  (1) Be open to borrowing brilliance, in this case from outside their market. The idea for the mats was borrowed from tires. (2) Plan, Do, Study, Act. Many cycles of learning yielded a strong proof of the mat's effectiveness, a key point for customer acceptance. (3) Leverage intellectual property you already own. The new innovation, layered on a patent pending technology already in house, yielded the unique and proprietary product line.   MORE

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Innovation Policyworks enables economic development officials at state, regional and local levels make better, data-driven decisions by providing expert research, analysis and recommendations. Our clients see innovation and entrepreneurship as critical elements of their economic development strategy, and are developing new programs or policies, and/or evaluating existing ones. 

Dr. Catherine S. Renault has been delivering innovation-based economic development results in rural states for more than 25 years, most recently as science advisor and Director of the Office of Innovation for the State of Maine. Cathy is currently working with E2Tech, the Maine State Building and Construction Trades Council 
iNBIA and the University of Southern Maine.  For a list of selected projects, see www.innovationpolicyworks.com/projects.