program on its own. More recently, NIST has partnered with the Nano-Electronics Research Institute to provide funding to university research consortia, supporting early-stage technologies of broad interest to companies.
In closing, Dr. Singerman said he was interested in the lessons of Germany has learned from its expertise in manufacturing, and in bringing those lessons to the U.S. innovation eco-system. Conversely, he said, he hoped there were reciprocal lessons U.S. speakers were bringing to their German colleagues, perhaps including some of those supported by NIST. “I’m eager now or in subsequent communications to receive your views on these issues,” he concluded, “and to discuss further the Obama administration’s interest in manufacturing and its connections to innovation.”
A questioner asked about the role of the U.S. government in terms of encouraging innovation. Ms. Lew said that the government tries to do this with “a light touch,” offering them access to technologies of potential value that may be sitting unused in research laboratories, but “basically getting out of the way of entrepreneurs and allowing them to take risks. “I think it has to do with both culture and attitude,” she said. “In the United States, we really do encourage risk taking and failure. We accept the fact that entrepreneurs can and should fail, because you don’t always get it right the first time. We try to adopt policies that give access to the technology, reduce regulatory hurdles, and catalyze the access to capital without interfering with the private capital markets. We want to just be catalytic and remove some of the risk from the marketplace without getting too involved.”
A questioner asked how much the U.S. regulatory requirements of the state and federal governments overlapped or conflicted. Dr. Singerman noted that there is a long-running ideological debate in Washington over whether the federal government should engage in “industrial policy,” favoring certain technologies or industries. The official position is that it cannot, but the states all have some form of industrial policy, regardless of whether they have Republican or Democratic governors. NIST is very interested in working with the states, and many have close connections with federal funding sources. “Partnership is really the key to the national agenda,” he said. “Unfortunately, with state budgets reduced, there’s a gap in the ability to support small firms, if not in willingness.”
Ms. Lew said that for 10 years she was on the supervisory board of a European investment fund that invested in early-stage companies. She learned how much young start-up companies were affected by restraints on company formation, limited access to private sources of capital, and employment regulations. In the United States, she said, there is considerable collaboration between the federal and state governments “because at the end of the day, if we have stronger regional economies, we have a stronger national economy.” As an example she mentioned an index that ranks the states on how business-friendly they are. As such knowledge circulated, the states began to compete to score