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WELCOME Charles Wessner The National Academies In welcoming the conference participants to the National Academies, Dr. Wessner noted that while many that recognize clusters are a means of accelerating innovation, advancing the nation’s competitiveness, and providing jobs and growth, few understand what clusters are, how they form, or how they develop. Hence, a key goal of the symposium is to improve our understanding of clusters and enhance our knowledge of how public policies can foster their growth.1 Under the leadership of Lawrence Summers, Dale Jorgensen, and Ed Penhoet, the National Academies’ Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy (STEP) has studied how public-private partnerships can support and accelerate innovation. STEP has reviewed several major U.S. efforts to promote innovation, including the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, the SEMATECH consortium that contributed to the resurgence of the semiconductor industry, the Advanced Technology Program, and the role of Science and Technology Parks. Together, these programs have made vital contributions to accelerating innovation in the United States. 2 A Global Perspective STEP has also looked at examples of partnership programs in other countries. Dr. Wessner called the international interest “relatively unusual” in Washington, but one that is essential to understand the 1 Regional industry clusters are defined as “geographic concentrations of interconnected firms and supporting organizations” in Karen G. Mills, Elisabeth B. Reynolds, and Andrew Reamer, “Clusters and Competitiveness: A New Federal Role for Stimulating Regional Economies,” Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, April 2008. 2 See National Research Council, Government-Industry Partnerships for the Development of New Technologies, Charles W. Wessner, ed., Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2003. 31
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32 GROWING INNOVATION CLUSTERS FOR AMERICAN PROSPERITY features of the global economy.3 “A lot of countries are working extremely hard,” he said, “at making good the deficiencies in their innovation systems. And those efforts are of course shaping the international competitive environment.” He noted that a representative of IMEC, a consortium in Flanders, Belgium, that supported industry- government-university partnerships of many kinds, would address the symposium.4 A key finding of the STEP research, he said, is that partnerships—and the clusters in which they are embedded—are “sound in principle and effective in practice” when properly structured, funded, and managed.” They succeed by helping capitalize on a nation’s R&D investments through the accelerated commercialization of new technologies, he said. This process also contributes to national missions in health, energy, defense, and the environment. Dr. Wessner noted that the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) is one example of an effective partnership. He noted that a recent assessment by the National Research Council found that the SBIR program stimulates firm creation. Over 20 percent of respondents to the NRC survey of firms with SBIR Phase II projects attributed the founding of their firm to a prospective SBIR award.5 The SBIR program also encourages collaboration between small firms and universities, he said, and brings innovative technologies to market. One such company is the A123 Systems that has developed an innovative advanced technology lithium-ion battery that may well power the next generation of electric vehicles.6 A sister program to SBIR is the Technology Innovation Program (TIP), formed when Congress modified the Advanced Technology 3 See National Research Council, Innovation Policies for the 21st Century, Charles W. Wessner, ed., Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2007. 4 See National Research Council, Innovative Flanders: Innovation Policies for the 21st Century, Charles W. Wessner, ed., Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2008. 5 See National Research Council, An Assessment of the SBIR Program, Charles W. Wessner, ed., Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2008. In this volume, see Appendix A for the NRC Phase II survey methodology as well as the survey form. 6 National Research Council, Building the U.S. Battery Industry for Electric Drive Vehicles: Progress, Challenges, and Opportunities, Charles W. Wessner, rapporteur, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, forthcoming.
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33 SUMMARY OF PRESENTATIONS 7 Program to add universities as lead partners. TIP is structured to address specific national needs, including energy, infrastructure, and health. An R&D consortium that coordinates pre-competitive research is another form of partnership that adds value to the economy. Such a consortium is based on the willingness of competing firms to collaborate on questions that do not involve proprietary topics but that are of sufficient complexity and importance to benefit from industry-wide attention. The United States has long experience in such successful consortia, he said, beginning with the SEMATECH partnership that helped revive the U.S. semiconductor industry in the 1990s. The Semiconductor Research Corporation’s Focus Centers continue to provide a model for forming teams of universities to conduct exploratory research needed for next-generation technologies. Dr. Wessner noted that effective university-industry linkages help drive local growth and national competitiveness. “We need innovative universities to keep and improve our standard of living,” he said. “A variety of new incentives and new initiatives are needed, and we shall hear about some of the activities underway later today” from the presidents of the University of Akron and Arizona State University. Key Questions Dr. Wessner introduced the topic of the symposium with a series of related questions: How can the United States keep industry here? How can the country capture the benefits of the recent Recovery Act8 and its consequent increases in R&D budgets for the U.S. economy? How can the United States address the locational competition for investment in industries of national importance, both today and tomorrow? A broad approach, he said, which has been successful generally, is “to use what you have, and to use what is known to work.” He recommended that the United States should fund proven innovation partnerships that invest in U.S.-based firms and U.S.-based clusters. “Innovation is not just a high-technology, science-based phenomenon,” he said. “Support for innovation means supporting the small and large companies that will provide tomorrow’s growth and employment, and from a national security perspective, one that will provide procurement officers with greater choice and greater speed of delivery.” 7 See National Research Council, The Advanced Technology Program: Assessing Outcomes, Charles W. Wessner, ed., Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 2001. 8 The $787 billion American Recovery and Investment Act was passed by Congress in 2009 “to create and save jobs, jumpstart our economy, and build the foundation for long-term economic growth.” .
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34 GROWING INNOVATION CLUSTERS FOR AMERICAN PROSPERITY This approach, he suggested, should be part of a broader range of efforts, many of which were on the symposium agenda. In light of that recommendation, he described the meeting as “a key part of STEP’s work on best practices in state and regional innovation policies.” He said that the objectives of the symposium were to: • Highlight the role of clusters in promoting economic growth. • Examine the government’s role in stimulating clusters. • Explore the role of universities and foundations in developing clusters. • Learn of specific strategies in place around the country. • Identify institutions and programs that can be leveraged to grow and sustain clusters. He concluded by thanking the sponsors of the symposium: the Heinz Endowments, the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), the U.S. Department of Energy, the Economic Development Administration (EDA), Acciona Energy, and SkyFuel.