changing conditions, and maintaining its authoritative status. Innovation can be thought of as “the conversion of knowledge and ideas into a benefit, which may be for commercial use or for the public good.”1 For the purposes of EPA, the committee is using the term innovation as a new means by which to achieve enhancements to environmental and public health at reduced private-sector and public-sector costs. It is essential for EPA to identify and focus on desired outcomes rather than being tied to established processes, procedures, or routines; a fundamental lesson from research on business innovation is that the process is best served by a focus on outcomes.
The simplest measures of success are advances toward goals like cleaner air or safer drinking water, which are most often guided by legislation. Given the scarcity of resources for environmental protection and given the concern for income and employment, EPA has an interest in the private-sector and public-sector costs of achieving health and environmental goals. For EPA, innovation can be measured in such outcomes as direct benefits to health and the environment or in reductions in private-sector and public-sector costs of achieving these outcomes. Continuing to strive to create and promote new processes, tools, and technologies can advance such outcomes. The agency can be innovative in relation to health and the environment by influencing current business and government practices via technology transfer and education.
US Environmental Protection Agency Supporting Innovation
EPA has done much in the past to support the development of innovative ideas in portions of its activities. One example is the development of ways of evaluating and using rapidly emerging biologic testing, as described in Chapter 3. Another is the recent launch of an internal competition called Pathfinder Innovation Projects, which promotes innovation in the agency (EPA 2011c). The program received 117 proposals from almost 300 scientists after its first call for proposals and, after an external peer-review process, funded 12 initial projects (Preuss 2011). Such programs as Design for the Environment, the agency’s recent efforts to crowdsource some questions through the Innocentive Web site (described in the section “Identifying New Ways to Collaborate” below), and new technologies in hydroinformatics are examples of efforts to identify innovative solutions. In addition, the federal government’s Open Government Initiative and its Challenge.Gov Web site are encouraging innovation in all agencies. Those efforts, however, have not been systematic, and they have not been developed strategically to encourage the much larger potential innovation that could come from the private sector.
When the outcomes are of mutual interest, the agency can help to support and encourage private-sector innovation to serve its desired outcomes in several systematic ways. First, agency scientists generally have a broad view of emerg-