Sunday, February 19, 2012

The competitiveness and innovative capacity of the US. Any good info in there?

The U.S. Department of Commerce was tasked, in consultation with the National Economic Council, by the President of the United States to create a report about the current state of innovation in the U.S. " The competitiveness and innovative capacity of the U.S." is the result. Although a standard government report, by this i mean dry and not too exciting, it consists of about 160 pages, many of which are graphs and cover pages so your reading might be close to a hundred. The weather in the Washington D.C. area is not that great today, so i sat down this morning and read it.

Most of the report is standard, a document used by the administration to support its policies. It identifies three area or "pillars" in which government investments are essential; federal support of basic research, education and infrastructure. The report focuses on how the federal government needs to invest in basic research as private companies are not inclined to do so, how STEM education investments are essential and how improving infrastructure will benefit commerce. The benefits of these investments are rarely debated, the debate occurs when deciding who has to pay for them. This post will focus on two area that were presented, but not discussed in depth, in the report; Regional Innovation Centers and Trade agreements.

Regional Innovation Centers (RICs) are geographic areas around the U.S. in which particular industries are clustered. Some examples include the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in the Dan River Region of Virginia focusing on research and STEM education and the Joint venture Silicon Valley Network, focusing on IT.   RIC are important because its a mutually supportive environment, companies in the area depend on each other for growth and the success of one can mean future growth for other companies in the area. The link for small businesses to RICs can occur in the SBDCs. Most land grant public universities have some sort of relationship with a RIC, and most of the innovations created at the university are funneled directly into the RIC for commercialization. Having a good relationship with your SBDC could help you understand two things; if your area is a RIC and what are the terms of entry into the regional community. Small start ups and small businesses struggle with R&D since it is expensive, tapping into a whole network who help its members with these costs might enhance your business.

The second area that i noticed were the trade agreements. The report, in its entirety, only devotes about 1.5 pages to trade agreements. it mentions the signing of the Colombia, South Korea and Panama agreements and the ongoing negotiations for the Trans-Pacific  Partnership (negotiations currently include Australia, Chile, Peru, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, New Zealand and Vietnam) This is not enough. Mentioning trade agreements that have already been signed and the negotiations for another is not enough to help our small businesses export their products. Program from the U.S Commercial Services should be discussed, as well as the SBA and the Export-Import Bank. Signing FTAs with other countries is just one of the answers, more avenues for our business to learn and follow trade leads are necessary.

The whole report can be found here 

What do you think? Can RICs help your business grow? Is assisting companies in their export endeavors really a priority or not? 

I look forward to reading your comments.