Thursday, March 14, 2019

I'm running for the presidency of Innovation

I thought - why not?  Everyone else is running, so why be left out in the cold?  If the governor of Washington State can run on the single plank of climate change, if senators who have barely introduced themselves to their colleagues can run, if a west Texas Irishman named Beto can consider running, then so can I.  Of course my candidacy will be strictly tongue in cheek, and really meant to frame a more interesting question - where does innovation stand in all of this?

What's my platform?

If I'm going to make an imaginary run for president, it will be on the basis of innovation.  If I become president I'm going to find ways to make it easier for the government to innovate how it operates.  I'm going to find ways to improve our patent and trademark office to accelerate good patents and slow down or eliminate defensive patents.  I'm going to find ways to help all of our government agencies and programs innovate, to both cut costs and to improve services and customer experience.

But beyond that, I'm going to look to innovate how we provide government services, how we delegate responsibility, how we speed up the delivery of services.  For example, our response to Puerto Rico in the last hurricane.  The response was slow, and inadequate, but came on top of a large response in Houston and the challenge of getting supplies to an island.  But we should look at how we can innovate the delivery of services, because one major catastrophe or one difficult delivery point shouldn't become a barrier to an innovative agency.  And this promise goes beyond FEMA to all agencies and government activities.  We need to rethink how the government is structured, and how services are delivered.

Beyond government

Beyond government my administration will do more to encourage innovation in corporations.  That's not just with more R&D tax breaks, but with more cajoling of the executives to start putting innovation resources and funding behind their innovation promises.  We are in a fight for our competitive lives as global market changes occur (as China becomes larger and the EU disintegrates), as new technology shifts (digital transformation) and as the nature of work and where people work changes (increases in automation, decreases in traditional starter jobs).

In the past the government was a big investor in new R&D, leading to specialized software and hardware that eventually had commercial use.  That model is reaching the tipping point - if it hasn't already - where the government is increasingly familiar with taking on COTS products and using them.  We need a new space race, a new digital transformation focus, a new innovation focus to get people bought in to the need for more innovation, more frequently and more consistently.

As your innovation president, I promise to work harder to make the government more innovative, to innovate how we legislate and especially how we budget and deliver services.  Just as importantly, I promise to put pressure on our leading corporations to do more innovation, and to do all I can to encourage startups.  As part of this I propose giving a green card to any person graduating with a masters or PhD in a science or technology field, who will stay and create a business.

We need to find ways to remove risk and uncertainty where possible, and create new sources of venture capital and risk capital to help smaller businesses get started.  We don't necessarily need more unicorns, but more viable companies that create interesting and innovative products and services.

What more could a president do?

Beyond a few of these activities and investments, perhaps the most important thing I could do as president for innovation is constant reinforcement.  Many presidents - both in government and in the private sector - have an innovation summit or a short focus on innovation and then declare victory.  My goal will be to keep innovation in the forefront, in multiple communications, in multiple cabinet meetings and in regular communications to the population.

This is why I mentioned above the new space race, the new burning platform.  We need to talk about innovation and why it matters, but more importantly what it will achieve or help us overcome.  Innovation is simply a tool to help us accomplish new things.  We need to do a better job creating focus on what innovation should be focused on and how it helps government, the private sector, our states and communities and so forth, to demonstrate that innovation is helping achieve measurable outcomes and goals.  As your president, I will appoint a cabinet level member to define our new moon shot and keep innovation at the top of my agenda.

Just as the space race energized a whole generation of scientists, engineers and innovators, we need a new rallying cry, to improve how the government innovates and how corporations and startups commit more energy and effort to innovation.  As your president, this will be my overriding focus.  Do I have your vote?

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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 1:00 PM


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