Secretary of Commerce
Mr. Locke thanked the National Academy of Sciences and added, “It’s great to see you again.” The previous day, Mr. Locke explained, he was at the NAS “talking with a group of businesses and university leaders about the urgent need to move great ideas more quickly from university labs into the market place.” He said that the group also discussed how “government, business and academia can better collaborate and take steps to make the country’s innovation ecosystem more focused and efficient.”
We all know “that America is not lacking for groundbreaking ideas in this country,” Mr. Locke said. “Nor are we short on smart entrepreneurs willing to take risks. What we need to do is get better at connecting the great ideas to the great company builders.” That is why this symposium is so important, he added.
“Regional innovation clusters have a proven track record of getting good ideas more quickly into the marketplace,” Mr. Locke said. “When businesses, government, academia and nonprofits are situated in one place pulling towards similar goals, good things happen.” He cited Silicon Valley, Boston’s Route 128 corridor, and North Carolina’s Research Triangle as striking examples of innovation clusters done right. “The burning question then comes: ‘How do we create more of them?’” he said.
Mr. Locke said the answer to this question isn’t just important to him or those at the symposium. “It’s important to the millions of Americans who—even before this recession began—were falling behind,” he said. Since 2000, he said, most families have seen their wages stagnate or decline, while the costs of necessities such as health care and tuition have skyrocketed. The prime culprit of America’s economic problems has been “the decline in the type of good, skilled, well-paying jobs that once helped America build the strongest middle class in the history of the world,” Mr. Locke said. “America’s challenge, therefore, isn’t just to emerge from recession. It is to lay a new foundation for sustainable long-term economic growth,” he said.
Mr. Locke said that the place to start is by promoting the creation of new businesses. America has always celebrated “those pioneers who were willing to mortgage their houses, work 100-hour weeks, and throw caution to the wind in the pursuit of an idea,” he said. “That story is at the very heart of America’s economic success.” Over the years, however, “we fell in love with another type of risk that extolled short-term thinking and speculation,” Mr. Locke said. “Instead of working to engineer a breakthrough technology or build a great company, too many of our brightest minds were busy engineering credit-default swaps. America can’t afford to inflate another bubble that enriches a select few while putting everyone else in peril.”
The United States no longer can count on Wall Street’s version of innovation to drive its economy. “We know how that story ends,” he said. “Instead,