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Innovation Policies for the 21st Century: Report of a Symposium
In these two examples of partnerships between universities and business, the federal government had been an important silent partner. The expansion of engineering and science departments during World War II, along with rapid increase in federal funding for university research in the decades thereafter, had created centers of excellence in basic and applied research throughout the country. State and local governments were making important investments in higher education—particularly conspicuous were those of California and New York, which were building new campuses—and 2-year community colleges were springing up everywhere. The recruitment of an increasing percentage of high-school graduates into new post-secondary programs, above all those of the 2-year colleges, was taking place. Governments helped build an infrastructure in which the new partnerships could succeed. “My colleagues on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology [PCAST] during this administration refer to this whole phenomenon as ‘the ecology of innovation,’” Dr. Marburger said, explaining that the term suggested “the notion of a ‘system’ in the innovation process.” This has been a subject of much study; in fact, he reckoned that many attending the symposium have looked at economic development occurring around the nucleus of a research university or federal laboratory, where this development has been fostered by the investment of public funds at the federal and state levels.
Five categories embracing institutional participants in innovation systems were identified in a study prepared for PCAST, which Dr. Marburger cochaired with the prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalist Floyd Kvamme, by the Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI), an organization attached to OSTP and operated by the Institute for Defense Analyses:
governments, which play a key role in setting broad policy directions and a primary role in funding basic scientific research;
private enterprises and their research institutes, which contribute to development and other activities that are closer to the market than governments are;
universities and related institutions that provide key knowledge and skills;
bridging institutions acting as intermediaries under such names as “technology center,” “technology brokers,” or “business innovation centers,” which play an important if understated role in closing the gaps among the other actors and had been important to the success of all types of research centers; and
other organizations, public and private, such as venture capital firms, federal laboratories, and training organizations.
The STPI study also identified four contextual factors sufficiently important to the operation of innovation systems to be able to make or break them: market conditions, physical infrastructure, education and training, and regulatory conditions. The innovation-systems approach looked at by PCAST the previous year identified barriers to specific policy objectives and assigned functions to mitigate