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Blog Category: NACIE

Building Data-Driven Workforce Solutions

Building Data-Driven Workforce Solutions

Guest blog post by Chauncy Lennon, Senior Program Director, Workforce Initiatives JP Morgan Chase Foundation and Member of the Commerce Department's National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE) 

Last Friday was the kickoff meeting for NACIE 2.0 – the Department of Commerce’s National Advisory Committee on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. I was proud to join my fellow committee members to address global competiveness. Without question, the meeting started in what can only be described as a sprint out of the blocks. We began the morning with Secretary Pritzker asking us what transformational investments and policies the Federal Government facilitate to help communities, businesses, and workers be globally competitive. By the end of the day we were presenting a list of ideas with the potential to answer this charge. Additional comments from Julie Kirk, Director of the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Tom Kalil, Deputy Director of Policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, helped frame the opportunities ahead. 

A new and welcomed feature of NACIE 2.0 is three subcommittees focusing on innovation, entrepreneurship, and workforce development. I’m looking forward to serving on the workforce subcommittee. At JPMorgan Chase, we’ve just completed the first year of New Skills at Work, a five-year, $250 million global initiative supporting the development of data-driven workforce training and education solutions to help address the mismatch between the needs of employers and the skills of current job seekers. As the subcommittee got to work on honing its list of priorities, labor market information and data quickly rose to the top. Advancing the US workforce, helping industries compete, and fostering innovation all require better data and systems to process and share it with employers, educators and workforce trainers.

The limitations government, business and educators face in understanding education pipelines, career pathways, and the different types of credentials workers currently create significant economic growth challenges. Without data, employers don’t know if the workforce in their region can meet their skill needs.  The same goes for job seekers. If education attainment is not linked to the needs of businesses, high schools, colleges and training providers struggle to know exactly what credentials and degrees students might need to find jobs in different sectors and industries. 

As a result, both employers and job seekers suffer because of insufficient data. Job seekers have a hard time knowing about current and future employment opportunities while employers lack access to the quality data informing them about the results of training and education programs.

Building stronger data systems will take time. But it is the perfect example of an idea that answers Secretary Pritzker’s charge to NACIE: With the right information, we can transform our economy to benefit everyone.  

Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Workforce Skills Pillars in Ensuring U.S. Competitiveness

Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Workforce Skills Pillars in Ensuring U.S. Competitiveness

Guest blog post by Stephen S. Tang, Ph.D., MBA and Member of the Commerce Department's National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship

It’s an honor to serve with such distinguished members of NACIE and to have a voice in this national conversation about innovation and entrepreneurship.  This is an especially personal topic to me. Innovation and entrepreneurship are in my blood – and a part of my heritage. I’m the son of international students from China who sought – and largely achieved – the American dream in Delaware, where I grew up and first discovered my love of science and technology. 

Like the children of many immigrants, I was born with high expectations from my high-achieving parents. My late father was an accomplished DuPont polymer engineer, process inventor, and NASA Lifetime Achievement Award-winner. My mother helped found the University of Delaware’s clinical chemistry department. As you can imagine, there was a lot of pressure on me and my siblings to excel.

My work at the University City Science Center has reinforced my belief that innovation and entrepreneurship define the origins and values of America. After all, as Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter will remind you, Philly was home to the original American start-up, our nation. My home city’s long and storied history of innovation that began with the Founding Founders continues to this day.

Between bifocals and the lightning rod, Benjamin Franklin alone, was a one-person innovation ecosystem! However, one person alone, or even one industry alone, does not an ecosystem make! Instead, innovation thrives in a rainforest-like atmosphere when disparate, yet related groups convene, connect and have the opportunity to collaborate.

Cities and regions are poised to be the defining platform to grow innovation ecosystems. They are the rainforests where these innovation ecosystems can thrive. They also provide a hospitable environment for scalable innovation. I believe that scaling – the process of transitioning from the start-up to the manufacturing phase in a company’s early life – is the key to fulfilling the promise of innovation and creating good jobs.

Innovation Support is in Demand

Julie Kirk, Director, Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

By Julie Kirk, Director, Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship 

What do you get when you take a $15 million Regional Innovation Strategies program and add 254 applicants requesting more than $100 million in support? You get a very busy Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and compelling evidence that this program is crucial.

The Regional Innovation Strategies program was launched in September 2014 to spur innovation capacity-building activities in regions across the nation. Under this program, EDA solicited applications for three separate funding opportunities, including: the i6 Challenge, Science and Research Park Development grants, and cluster grants to support the development of Seed Capital Funds: 

  • i6 Challenge: The i6 Challenge, now in its forth iteration, is focused on accelerating the commercialization of technology. The 2014 i6 was broadened from the three previous challenges to include scaling of existing centers or programs and funding for later-stage Commercialization Centers.
  • Science/Research Parks: This new program provides funding for feasibility and planning of new or expanded Science/Research parks or renovation of existing facilities.
  • Cluster Grants for Seed Funds: Also new this year, this program provides funding for technical assistance to support feasibility, planning, formation, or launch of cluster-based seed capital funds that invest in growth-oriented, innovation-based start-up companies. Ultimately, the goal is to foster job creation. 

EDA is committed to helping foster connected, innovation-centric economic sectors which support commercialization and entrepreneurship. Working with regions across the country to develop regional innovation strategies, including regional innovation clusters, is also one of the Commerce Department’s strategic goals, and a keystone of the Secretary’s commitment to building globally competitive regions.  

This effort is also in line with the Department’s “Open for Business Agenda” priority to strengthen operational excellence: providing better services, solutions, and outcomes to better serve the American people. The overwhelming response by the application’s closing date on November 3 demonstrates that communities recognize the benefits of a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem and could benefit from the kind of support offered by the Regional Innovation Strategies program. 

Entrepreneurs: Driving the Innovation Economy in Pennsylvania

Entrepreneurs: Driving the Innovation Economy in Pennsylvania

This week marks Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), the world’s largest celebration of the innovators and job creators, who launch startups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare. It’s a great opportunity to really look at the ways in which entrepreneurs shape our current world while looking forward toward the next big thing. 

This year, I celebrated GEW by visiting flourishing centers of innovation in Pennsylvania. Along with Julie Kirk, Director of EDA’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, we met with local entrepreneurs at Philadelphia’s University City Science Center and in Doylestown at the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center of Bucks County

It was only fitting that we kicked off GEW at the Science Center, the recipient of a $1 million EDA grant in October 2014 to help grow and launch new technology companies and an organization that has helped to create more than 15,000 jobs that contribute more than $9 billion to the Philadelphia region’s economy. 

We were joined by president & CEO of the University City Science Center Dr. Stephen Tang, who is also a newly announced member of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE). It was refreshing to have the opportunity for an open dialogue with some of the region’s most dynamic entrepreneurs on how to the United States can foster innovation and entrepreneurship in every community. 

Later in the day, Julie and I traveled to Bucks County, where EDA recently invested $4.6 million to help the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center expand its facility and offer assistance to entrepreneurs in the area. Julie and I had the opportunity to tour the Center’s facilities as well as engage in a roundtable discussion with a number of incubator tenants about their experiences getting their start-ups off the ground.

EDA is strongly committed to supporting innovation and entrepreneurship. In fact, over the past five years, EDA has invested more than $200 million in more than 170 incubators and entrepreneurship centers across the nation. 

This week in many communities across the nation and the world, roundtables like those I participated in are taking place to help foster greater innovation and entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs play a tremendous role in our economy and many of their products and services have come to play an increasingly important role in our daily lives. Every day is an opportunity to celebrate their contributions, so while GEW may end on the 21st, let’s keep up the conversation going all year round.

Tapping Stakeholders to Help Accelerate Innovation and Entrepreneurship

When you want something done, give it to a busy person. In the case of the newly appointed members of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE), the Department of Commerce has tapped a group of busy, innovative folks who are passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and workforce issues to advise the Secretary on compelling challenges and opportunities in these fields. 

With the “Open for Business” agenda, Secretary Pritzker made it clear that Commerce’s role is to be the voice of business to support the Obama Administration’s focus on economic growth and job creation. Additionally, this new vision recognizes the demands of a globally competitive economy. With the new members of NACIE hailing from companies small and large as well as nonprofits and academia, the new NACIE will be a conduit for that voice of business.  As it begins its work on December 5, 2014, the Council will be focused on the theme of “creating globally competitive regions.” 

NACIE was created in 2010 as part of the America COMPETES Act reauthorization to advise the Secretary of Commerce on innovation and entrepreneurship. The previous NACIE produced several impactful outcomes, including The Innovative and Entrepreneurial University: Higher Education, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Focus report and the Improving Access to Capital for High-Growth Companies report, the latter of which served as the basis for the JOBS Act and began the process of expanding the capabilities and impact of crowd funding. 

With this iteration of NACIE, we’ve added a focus on the talent portion of the ecosystem. Having the right skilled workforce in the right place at the right time is a common challenge that is hampering many companies’ ability to grow and be competitive. Too many businesses can’t find skilled workers for jobs they want to fill, while too many people looking for a job may be ready to learn new skills but may not be certain that there’s a job waiting for them on the other end.

The specific challenge that will be issued to the NACIE members at their first organizational meeting on December 5 will be to look at what transformational investments and policies the federal government should facilitate that would help communities, businesses, and the workforce compete globally. There will be a focus on defining what “transformational” means and the Council will be urged to explore evidence-based outcomes that include metrics that can be used to monitor the impact of recommendations.

By bringing together this group of experienced, creative, and smart entrepreneurial thinkers, the Council is expected to develop innovative, actionable ideas to support the objectives of the Department of Commerce and Administration. And why not? Busy people clearly know how to get stuff done.

Secretary Pritzker Discusses Fostering a 21st Century Workforce with Walter Isaacson at the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival

Today, at the 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker spoke about the Obama Administration and the Commerce Department’s efforts to strengthen the American workforce and prepare our workforce for 21st century jobs through skills development. She discussed these efforts with Walter Isaacson, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, during an armchair discussion titled “21st Century Workforce.”

Since taking office a year ago, Secretary Pritzker has spoken to over a thousand business leaders and more than one-third of Fortune 500 CEOs, and one of the top concerns that they have shared is finding the right workers to fill available jobs. To ensure the economy’s long term competitiveness, the United States must maintain a strong workforce with the skills that businesses need. That is why the Department of Commerce is making workforce development a top priority for the first time ever.

In her discussion with Isaacson, Secretary Pritzker talked about some of the initiatives that the Commerce Department is leading to equip the American workforce with skills for jobs in thriving industries. For example, the Department recently launched a membership call for the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE), an advisory council that will assists the Department in finding new approaches to industry-led skills training. This spring, Secretary Pritzker also joined President Obama and Vice President Biden to announce a combined $600 million in Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) and apprenticeship grants, which will enable a number of communities to train workers for challenging careers in growing American industries, such as advanced manufacturing, IT, and healthcare.

Secretary Pritzker Discusses the Importance of a Globally Competitive Workforce at the 2014 CGI America Annual Meeting

Secretary Pritzker Discusses the Importance of a Globally Competitive Workforce at the 2014 CGI America Annual Meeting

At the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) America 2014 Annual Meeting today in Denver, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker spoke about the Commerce Department’s efforts to catalyze job-driven training initiatives and the Obama Administration’s focus on fostering a 21stcentury workforce. Following remarks by former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary Pritzker spoke on a panel moderated by Chelsea Clinton, Clinton Foundation Vice Chair, titled “Charting a New Course: Education and Employing America’s Future Leaders.”

Workforce training is a personal issue for Secretary Pritzker, and she has heard from many CEOs that finding the right workers to fill available jobs is one of their top concerns. That is why Secretary Pritzker has made workforce training a top priority for the Department of Commerce for the very first time.

As Secretary Pritzker noted during the panel, training initiatives must be industry-driven in order to succeed in creating the 21st century workforce that businesses need. The Commerce Department leads a number of initiatives that have already seen progress towards equipping the American workforce with the skills for available jobs. For example, the Department recently launched a membership call for the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE), an advisory council that will assists the Department in finding new approaches to industry-led skills training. Secretary Pritzker also recently joined President Obama and Vice President Biden to announce a combined $600 million in Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) and apprenticeship grants, which will enable a number of communities to train workers for careers in cutting edge industries, such as advanced manufacturing, IT, and healthcare.

Innovation in the Marketplace: Dr. Desh Deshpande on Successful Proof of Concept Centers

Portrait of Desh Deshpande

Guest blog post by Nish Acharya, Director of the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.

The National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE) supports President Obama’s innovation strategy by helping to develop policies that foster entrepreneurship and identifying new ways to take great ideas from the lab to the marketplace to drive economic growth and create jobs.

One of the guiding forces of NACIE is its co-chair, Dr. Desh Deshpande, who is also Chairman and President of the Sparta Group and has been involved with many other companies, such as A123 Systems, Sycamore Networks, Tejas Networks, Sandstone Capital, and HiveFire. He is also the founder of the Deshpande Foundation, and creator and supporter of the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which is a leading proof of concept center.

In the last of a series of conference calls with members of NACIE, on June 27, participants spoke with Dr. Deshpande, with whom I have worked closely to identify and implement strategies to spur entrepreneurship and innovation.

During the call, Dr. Deshpande defined innovation as coming up with new ideas, while entrepreneurship is putting those ideas into practice. He pointed out that all innovation is contextual, in that no group of individuals can just sit down and solve all the world’s problems. It is important, he noted, that innovators live in the areas where the problems exist. His point echoed one that has been made by several other NACIE members, namely that innovators have a greater chance of success if they begin by solving the problems that exist in their own communities.

The Importance of Culture, Partnerships, and Perspective in Regional Economic Development

Economic Development Administration seal

Guest blog post by Paul J. Corson, Deputy Director of the U.S. Commerce Department Economic Development Administration’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Recently, as part of our ongoing series of public conference calls with members of the National Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE), we spoke with Dr. Christina Gabriel, president of the University Energy Partnership, a nonprofit organization that was founded jointly in 2010 by five major research universities in the Pittsburgh area, and Dr. Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan. Dr. Gabriel and Dr. Coleman, who both play leading roles in regional-based economic development in promoting the commercialization of research, stressed similar themes, including the importance of culture, partnerships, and perspective in regional economic development.

During her call on May 22, Dr. Gabriel emphasized the importance of leveraging local strengths. She noted that while foundations historically have embodied a regional perspective when it comes to economic development, many universities have only recently begun to do so. Universities possess very rich and diverse strengths that are best leveraged by applying them to difficult problems in collaborative efforts. For example, the University Energy Partnership was set up to leverage broad research efforts and applied technology developments in the energy space that has been developed over many years—not just in the Pittsburgh region, but throughout the four neighboring states.

In order to achieve success in regional cooperatives, Dr. Gabriel recommended that institutions focus on what their region is good at, and to build around that. She cautioned against blindly following the latest fad and hiring consultants to try and steal companies from other regions. By focusing on regional strengths, she said, even regions that have fewer resources—including those that have lost human and industry resources—can slow, and even reverse, these declines.

ASU’s Dr. Michael M. Crow on Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Economic Development Administration seal

Guest blog post by Nish Acharya, director of the U.S. Commerce Department Economic Development Administration’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

This week, close to 100 entrepreneurs, innovators, small business owners, and stakeholders joined me for an in-depth conference call facilitated by the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship with Dr. Michael M. Crow, president of Arizona State University (ASU) and a member of the President’s National Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE). This was the first in a series of forums to highlight the work of NACIE, spotlight some of our nation’s most dynamic leaders, and share best practices and insight with potential applicants for the upcoming third round of the multiagency i6 Challenge.

During the conversation, Dr. Crow emphasized that for an institution to successfully spur innovation and entrepreneurship, its leadership must first purposefully decide to make entrepreneurship part of their core competency. This will empower the institution to put its time, energy, and resources towards fostering innovation and entrepreneurship broadly.