ing toxicologic and human health data—data that may suggest that particular current commercial products are problematic from a health and safety perspective. Highlighting or publicizing such data could provide early hints to manufacturers that replacements may be needed in the future and prompt enterprising companies and entrepreneurs to work to develop alternative means of satisfying desired customer outcomes. The committee does not advise EPA to try to develop solutions, inasmuch as the research environment in the agency is unlikely to be able to duplicate the resources and competitive pressures that drive the commercial product-development market. But providing clear signals of potential future environmental opportunities to the commercial sphere may be enough to prompt the creation of improvements.
Second, EPA can and does provide resources to support private-sector innovation directly. Examples are the EPA Small Business Innovation Research program and enhanced awards programs, such as the Presidential Green Chemistry Awards. Targeting of such programs to address problems that EPA scientists find particularly intractable or to address problems that it does not have the capacity to address can be a valuable means of stimulating the entrepreneurial community to attack problems of direct interest to the agency. To have the resources needed to support private-sector innovation directly at the levels necessary to produce results, the agency would benefit from collaborating and partnering with other agencies that have far greater budgets and resources and similar or complementary innovation challenges, for example, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Department of Energy, and the Department of Defense.
Third, EPA could create an infrastructure that would enable its scientists to serve as a clearinghouse for new technologies, particularly technologies whose effects could cross traditional disciplinary boundaries. The goal of such an infrastructure would be to foster diffusion and adaptation of new technologies, often the slowest step in the innovation process. Steps taken to enhance diffusion could accelerate innovation.
Fourth, technologic innovation relies on willingness (laws and market pressures), capacity, and opportunities for change (Ashford 2000). Capacity becomes a large barrier to innovation adoption, particularly for small and medium-size firms that may not have resources to implement or monitor change or that have legitimate concerns about failed technology adoption. EPA has an important role in addressing capacity and opportunity through science and support that provides information, technical assistance, networking of firms, demonstration activities, and economic incentives and disincentives (Ashford 2000). Many capacity-support mechanisms work most effectively at a state level. Since the passage of the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990, EPA has worked closely with providers of the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership and state pollution-prevention technical assistance providers to support innovative adoption of the act. Such models as the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Program provide examples of how an agency like EPA can leverage resources to support innovation. The focus of the program is not on identifying “acceptable” exposure levels