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President Obama’s State of the Union Links Middle Class Prosperity and Innovation

President Obama’s State of the Union address last night demonstrated the importance of U.S. science and economic competitiveness to a prosperous and growing middle class. His focus on “keeping the American Dream alive,” invoking core American values of “fair play,” and “shared responsibility,” were inexorably linked to his administration’s past innovation policy actions and proposals for 2012.

This reflects the Obama administration’s clear understanding that innovation is an intrinsic aspect of the American identity, and an indispensable tool to ensuring the future success of our economy and middle class. Indeed, as the president said last night, “innovation is what America has always been about.”

Certainly, technology can be a double-edged sword. It creates, as the president said, “new American jobs, and new American industries,” but “technology… also [makes] some jobs obsolete.” The only way to sieze the upsides and mitigate the downsides of inevitable technological change is to keep our economy on the cutting edge by investing in the building blocks of innovation—the assets our businesses, workers, and industries need to stay best in class. The blueprint the president unveiled last night outlined a robust vision to invest in those

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High Risk, Higher Reward: David Sandalow on Why the Government Must Invest in Innovation


By Lauren Simenauer, in a Science Progress cross-post.

The Internet is ablaze with allegations of government overreaching as the Tea Party rails against federalism and pundits lambast the administration’s role in the manufactured Solyndra scandal.  YouTube videos abound depicting a popular protest chant on Wall Street: “Banks got bailed out; we got sold out.” But the 99 percent wouldn’t even have the Internet as a medium of expression if the government hadn’t made a high-risk investment.  Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we remember our innovative roots and do not compromise on government-funded research.

On Friday, David Sandalow, assistant secretary for policy and international affairs at the DOE, addressed Yale University on the subject of government’s role in funding innovation. In his speech, he emphasized the importance of the government footing the bill for research that would otherwise be too expensive, too time consuming, or too risky for individual corporations to fund. Sandalow highlighted some key examples of government investments yielding monumental rewards: Google, natural gas from shale, GPS, the mapping of the human genome, and the Internet, just to name a few, wouldn’t have been

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What the President Did Not Do in His Jobs Speech

As expected President Obama’s speech before Congress last week laid out a moderate agenda for job creation through Keynesian-style stimulus and targeted tax cuts.

Certainly there is much to be lauded in the speech, so let’s start by addressing what he did do. The opening portion compellingly described an America where the social compact that said “you can succeed if only you work hard” has eroded. He went on to add that America’s deteriorating infrastructure (which receives an overall grade of “D” from the American Civil Society of Engineers), and crumbling schools are hampering our competitiveness. He did talk about investments we need to make and protections we need to keep. He did talk about priorities.

But the president missed an opportunity to elevate the narrative. He failed to decisively, crisply, and compellingly spell out an answer to his own question: “what’s the best way to grow the economy and create jobs?” The president could have used the question to pivot to a principled discussion of the progressive vision of economic prosperity. He could have drawn a stark contrast between his progressive values and the importance of “building up” the

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Latest “Victim” of Internet-Driven Innovation: SMS

Apple’s announcement that free text messaging under the iMessage brand would be part of its OS upgrade touched off a storm of discussion in the blogosphere about the death of text messaging.  Apparently Android will follow suit, as the good discussion in VentureBeat reveals.

Nothing new here.  As I discussed in an earlier InnovationBlog entry, the Internet feeds off artifacts that are highly-priced based on legacy approaches (in this case, a legacy network).

The best carriers have moved on to some extent by building their apps and data-driven revenue streams, but it’s a big hit to find a substitute for.

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New CAP report outlines Low-Carbon Innovation Strategy

“You wouldn’t think of going out on the football field without a plan, right? The same goes for manufacturing in America” explained House Democratic Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer at a Center for American Progress Action Fund event yesterday. The event, also featuring Assistant to the President for Manufacturing Policy, Ron Bloom and President of United Streetcar, Chandra Brown, focused on American manufacturing and the need for a low-carbon industrial renewal strategy.

The speakers agreed with Rep. Hoyer that manufacturing is essential to the American economy, that manufacturing and innovation are intertwined, and that the United States needs a solid long term game-plan to keep manufacturing clean and in America. The discussion echoed the main points of a CAP Paper “Low Carbon Innovation: A Uniquely American Strategy for Industrial Renewal” that was released at the event. Below is a summary of the paper. You can also access the full report here, and the introduction and summary here.

Innovating for a Low Carbon Future

Our nation’s innovation and competitive drive in the 20th century powered the U.S. economy to global leadership, helped win two World Wars and

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Hustling for Place-Based Innovation

President Barack Obama and his economic team demonstrated the depth of their engagement on innovation and place-based economic development strategies at the “Winning the Future Forum on Small Business” at Cleveland State University last month. The high-level presence at the event in Cleveland showed that the president’s Strategy for American Innovation is more than just rhetoric—top administration officials and the president himself are hustling to make it a reality.

At the forum, the president and his White House team engaged with small business owners and entrepreneurs to discuss how bottom-up, place-based innovation and small business development policies are helping to reinvent American industry. In particular, the president praised the Rust Belt for its emblematic endeavors to reinvent itself as the Tech Belt. “Each time I come here, you’ve done more to retool and reinvent yourself,” the president said. “And that is something [Cleveland] is doing right now. It’s reinventing itself.”

At the event, cabinet members hosted break-out sessions on the various building blocks of innovation-led economic growth, including entrepreneurship, access to capital, smart tax policy, workforce development, export assistance, and clean energy. The president also commented on how one of

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“The First Step in Winning the Future is Encouraging American Innovation”

President Obama’s second State of the Union address presented a comprehensive economic philosophy for the progressive movement in this century. The mantra of the conservative movement since Reagan popularized the now-defunct concept of trickle-down economics has been clearly stated and often repeated: tax cuts, less government. Ask anyone what forms the basis of the conservative economic philosophy and those four words will be among the first you will hear.

But what is the correspondingly simple mantra for the progressive economic philosophy? That is a harder question to answer, even for progressives.But after last night’s address we now have a strong candidate: innovation and competitiveness.

The president mentioned innovation and competitiveness numerous times throughout his address Tuesday, and outlined with surprising clarity a strategy to invest in all of its building blocks: science, education, workforce training, infrastructure, manufacturing, small businesses, access to domestic and export markets, and incentives to spur private capital investment.

This is encouraging news for us at Science Progress, since we have been working to advance the notion of the innovation-driven economy for years. Our unpublished prospectus—the document that, like a constitution, launched our little program—begins with

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