Policy and Practice Header
Notes from Innovation Policyworks
Last Saturday, I joined 10,000 others for the Women's March on Augusta (ME). It was exhilarating, to say the least, to be among such a big and diverse crowd: men and women; old and young; all colors, many cultures, many issues. The signs were great (my favorite - "We're not going back to the 1950s on my watch"), the speakers inspirational, and the mood upbeat. While I think each person who was there had their own reasons for participation, I think the universal concern was for equality and opportunity. It will be interesting to see how the enthusiasm evident across the country on Saturday will manifest itself in Washington and in state capitals. 

Book Review: 
The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds
by Michael Lewis.
Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky have written some of the most important books ever about how we assess the probability of certain events and make decisions. They showed the ways that humans systematically make errors of judgment that are counter to expectations based on rationality and probability. Since most of economics assumes rationality and probability-based decision-making, Kahneman and Tversky rocked the world with their findings. This book about two idiosyncratic academics and their improbable partnership is very entertaining, as well as illuminating. It documents the development of their ideas, and how the world received them. Truly worth reading. 

Economic Mobility and Inequality
Many Americans believe they have been left behind by economic changes, and they point to the fact that the gap between the rich and poor has never been wider. A new publication from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis may be of interest, as it contains a series of papers from noted scholars to help us better understand what's going on.

The conclusions are broad. First, the family is a very important part of economic mobility (or the lack thereof). The researchers debate the importance of one's starting point, both family wealth, but also race and ethnicity, and conclude that economic mobility is strongly controlled by these factors. Growing up in a single-parent household is also a challenge to getting ahead. But your age also matters, as there was considerably more mobility among the generation before the Baby Boomers. Place matters too, and you are more likely to experience upward mobility in a metro area than in a rural one.

The implicit finding overall is that many factors out of control of an individual play a role in economic mobility, and that suggests that perhaps there is a public role, specifically in the efficacy of education to overcome many of these factors. Entrepreneurship, innovation and hard work matter too.
One tidbit as we enter the annual fight at the state level about taxes: "When states develop a heavy reliance of sales tax, including food tax, and a low reliance on progressive tax, especially income and property tax, we see high levels of poverty and low levels of upward mobility." (p. 61)
Read the research HERE.
To provide some context, you may also like a new book called "Hillbilly Elegy," by J.D. Vance, an autobiographical look at the author's own climb out of Appalachian Kentucky and Ohio to a distinguished position as a lawyer and author. His tough love based look at the "hillbilly" culture reads as a call for more personal responsibility. Given than this is the demographic that helped elect our current President, this book is required reading. Here's the link to Amazon.
CityLab has released some great infographics to document where economic distress is highest. They show that high inequality didn't always mean high poverty, until recently. Now, more than forty percent of US counties have both. And seventy percent have one or the other. Check out the maps HERE.

The Knowledge Economy: A Snapshot

We have just released a new report that concludes that at the twenty-year mark in Maine's public investments in research and development, the relatively small size and episodic investment by the state has not been sufficient to overcome other market forces, such as the 2007-2012 recession, and the decline in the forestry sector. As a result, while Maine's science and technology companies have grown in number and employment, the state is still below its neighbors on many indicators of the Knowledge Economy.
Innovation is driving economic growth around the world, and for twenty years, Maine has sought to find its place in this new knowledge economy through investments in research and development at the universities, non-profit research institutions and in Maine companies. This report shows that we've made progress in some areas, and lag in others. More consistent, coordinated and targeted investment needs to be made to ensure that Maine doesn't get left behind.
Some highlights of the report:
  • Between 2003 and 2012, the number of Maine companies classified as science/technology/engineering has risen as a percentage of the entire economy. Similarly, employment in the science/technology/engineering sectors as defined by the National Science Foundation has also risen, topping 12 percent of total employment in 2012.
  • Startups have contributed to this growth, as almost 20 percent of the companies in Maine's Information and Professional/Technical/Scientific sectors are less than three years old.
  • For Maine, the goal of 3% of Gross State Product spent on R&D has been elusive, with our total R&D remaining around 1%. A driving factor of Maine's performance has been the consistently low level of R&D performed by our businesses. This situation is exacerbated by the R&D performance of Maine's colleges and universities, which is down substantially from a high in 2009.
  • Almost 70% of patents awarded to Maine-based inventors are assigned to corporations with locations in the state; many of our most inventive citizens work in MA or NH.

    Read the complete report HERE

Patents in Maine, 2015: Where the Inventors Are
and Where the Patents End Up
Source: Innovation Policyworks analysis of US Patent and Trademark Office data. 

In This Issue - January 2017

Join Our Mailing List

Quote of the Month 
" If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."
John Quincy Adams

Broadband and Populism?
I rarely disagree with Rob Atkinson, especially since he's also a UNC-Chapel Hill grad in public policy, but this time I think he's been in DC too long. Atkinson's latest paper from the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) suggests that "broadband populists" are trying to get government into what should be a privately run utility. If Rob were here in Maine, or other rural states where struggling phone and cable companies are doing almost nothing to provide high-speed broadband to large swaths of the population, he'd better understand the desire by some communities to get into the municipal broadband game. Read his report HERE.

Regenerative Businesses
We've heard of sustainable business and green business and innovative business. Here's a new one: regenerative business. It means, according to Giles Hutchins, author of Future Fit, businesses that "help, rather than hinder the evolutionary dynamics of life." As practical examples, Hutchins offers the opportunity for new value creation: waste of one output becomes the input for another, stakeholders become partners, linear thinking becomes systems thinking and resources are viewed holistically. He quotes a Chinese proverb, "In times of great winds, some build bunkers, others build windmills." Learn more HERE

Six Top Wind Power Trends of 2016 according to AWEA

  1. Wind turbine technician became the fastest growing occupation in the country. It is projected to grow 108% in the next decade.
  2. Many states really want wind power and strengthened their Renewable Portfolio Standards in 2016.
  3. Fortune 500 companies led the way for renewable power, e.g., Google, Microsoft and GM.
  4. Three out of four Trump voters support action to accelerate the development and use of clean energy.
  5. There's now enough wind energy in the US to power 20 million homes or 75GW.
  6. Offshore wind power came to the U.S. Deepwater Wind's Block Island wind farm came online at the end of 2016, ushering in a new era of American power generation. Another 13 offshore projects on both coasts and in the Great Lakes remain in various stages of development.

Client Doings- N-Squared Innovation District
Six months after we completed our report detailing the viability of creating an innovation-driven district in the Newton-Needham (MA) community, our client, the Newton-Needham Regional Chamber, is kicking off a major campaign to raise $350,000 to sustain the effort for the next two years. Spurred by early contributions of almost $100,000 including from TripAdvisor, local developer Normandy Real Estate Partners, and the City of Newton, the Chamber is well on its way to realizing its goals.

View our profile on LinkedIn

135 Maine Street, Suite A-183 · Brunswick, ME 04011 · 207.522.9028

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.