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Blog Category: Innovation

Building Networks to Advance the Innovation Economy

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Guest blog post by John Fernandez, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development

Like President Obama, the top priority of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s new Secretary John Bryson is jobs. Advancing innovative economies is key to achieving sustainable job creation.

Today I traveled to Columbus, Ohio to address innovators, technology business leaders and economic development professionals to discuss ways to accelerate America’s innovation economy to create good jobs and increase our global competitiveness.

I was joined by my colleagues Phil Singerman, Associate Director for Innovation and Industry Services at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and Sean Greene, Associate Administrator for Investment and Special Adviser for Innovation at the Small Business Administration at a conference hosted by State Science & Technology Institute (SSTI) – an organization that seeks to improve the economy through science and technology.  We discussed how under President Obama’s leadership federal agencies are making the smart investments needed to promote American innovation and support entrepreneurship and small business development.

American Companies Sweep Top Workplace Honors in Multinational Survey

Blue Ribbon

Guest blog post by Commerce Secretary John Bryson

Great Places to Work, a global research, consulting, and training firm, just unveiled its inaugural list of the 25 best multinational companies to work for in the entire world.  American companies landed 18 of the 25 top spots, including all 10 of the top 10.

Microsoft led the best workplace rankings, followed by SAS, NetApp, Google, FedEx Express, Cisco, Marriott, McDonald’s, Kimberly Clark and SC Johnson.  Also making the list were American Express, Medtronic, 3M, National Instruments, Mars, Accenture, Coca-Cola and Quintiles.

In businesses across the spectrum – information technology, services, manufacturing–innovative U.S. companies are furthering a reputation for excellence and creating opportunity for their shareholders, their customers and their employees.  In the process, they are modeling best practices in world markets and making the American dream possible for people here … and throughout the globe.

The 25 best multinational business workplaces were selected based on data from surveys taken by more than 2.5 million employees and managers, representing a 10-million strong workforce, in thousands of companies across six continents.

In his book, That Used To Be Us: How America Fell Behind the World It Invented and How We can Come Back, Thomas Friedman writes of America’s visible demonstration of the connections between freedom, economic growth and human fulfillment.  And he noted that the power of example is a hugely potent social force.

In being recognized for workplace environments characterized by credibility, trust, respect, fairness, pride in accomplishment and camaraderie, these top-ranked multinational American companies are powerful examples to the world.

Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge Winners Announced

The Obama Administration today announced the winners of the $37 million Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, a multi-agency competition launched in May to support the advancement of 20 high-growth, regional industry clusters. Investments from three federal agencies and technical assistance from 13 additional agencies will promote development in areas such as advanced manufacturing, information technology, aerospace and clean technology, in rural and urban regions in 21 states. Projects are driven by local communities that identify the economic strengths of their areas, with funding awarded to the best proposals.

These public-private partnerships are expected to create more than 4,800 jobs and 300 new businesses, as well as retain another 2,400 jobs and train approximately 4,000 workers for careers in high-growth industries, according to grantee estimates. Each of the 20 awards average about $1.8 million per project, and winning clusters will contribute another $13 million in total matching funds.

The winning projects of the Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge announced today include:

Rural America: Wellspring of Innovation

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Guest blog post by Robert L. Stoll, Commissioner for Patents, United States Patent and Trademark Office

Looking at today’s sophisticated high-definition television sets it is hard to imagine that their very foundation could have ever been conceived by a rural farm boy. Yet the legendary account of this farm boy’s inspiration for his image dissector occurred as he was plowing a field.  His name was Philo Farnsworth and at that moment the idea that would become electronic television was born. Just like his 19th century counterparts, John Deere, Cyrus McCormick, Eli Whitney and George Washington Carver, one of the fathers of the modern television industry found inspiration from his rural environment. 

That practice remains alive and well today.  We see it in places like Blaine, Minnesota where Pam Turner invented the Spiral Eye™ Sewing Needle; Athens, Texas where Lesia Farmer invented products for the kitchen; Wake Forest, North Carolina where Michael Sykes invented a home building system; and Sonora, California where Julia Rhodes invented KleenSlate Concepts®, dry erase products.  Today, in the age of the Internet, more inventions are collaborative efforts rather than creations in isolation like Farnsworth’s invention.  But even with all that is available at the touch of a keystroke it is still important to have experts readily accessible to support today’s American innovators wherever they may be.

Standards Boost Business: Competing in a 21st Century Economy

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Guest blog post from S. Joe Bhatia, President and CEO, American National Standards Institute

From alternative energy and nanotechnology to electric vehicles, vast opportunities for U.S. innovation and economic growth are developing in new and expanding industry sectors. As the U.S. ramps up its efforts to create jobs for the 21st century economy, there is an incredibly powerful tool at hand that can help U.S. industry tap into these technologies and out-innovate competitors in the global market.

I’m talking about standardization – and there has never been a better time for American businesses to leverage standards and conformance to gain a powerful trade advantage. Standardization not only informs the direction of innovation, it impacts the strength of the American workforce. Standards have the potential to accelerate the idea-to-market cycle, increase the number of U.S. products and services, and save companies millions of dollars. In short, standards have the power to turbo-charge innovation and fuel business growth.

That’s why the U.S. standardization community has launched the Standards Boost Business outreach initiative – to help companies understand the strategic and economic value of standards to business and to our overall national competitiveness.

MBDA Helps Minority-Owned Businesses Win the Future

Workers installing solar panels on reservation building

Commerce's Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) is enabling job creation and growth within minority-owned companies as they expand through innovation and untapped resources. MBDA has 50 business development centers and regional offices throughout the country and is preparing to open its newest business center in Cleveland, Ohio, in September to continue to create an environment for support, technical training and access to capital, contracts and to markets for business owners there.

Knowing that many jobs of the 21st century will be in clean and renewable energy, green technology, and Healthcare IT, the MBDA Business Centers are reaching out to minority-owned firms so they can expand into those new areas and keep communities strong and workers employed.

For example, MBDA client Sacred Power Corporation Inc. based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is a Native-American-owned renewable and distributive energy manufacturer. Sacred Power operates on the principle that “the world in which we live can change its current direction and dependence on polluting energy sources and convert to renewable technologies that provide clean, long-term solutions to today’s energy problems.”

Innovation and Invention: USPTO and Smithsonian Museum Partner in Exhibiting 'The Great American Hall of Wonders'

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The exhibition, The Great American Hall of Wonders, examining the 19th-century American belief that the people of the United States shared a special genius for innovation, is now open at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. It is a collaborative effort between the museum and Commerce's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and explores six subjects – three natural resources, three man-made inventions – that helped shape America during this period: the buffalo, Giant Sequoia, Niagara Falls, the gun, the railroad and the clock. The exhibition will focus on the ways these six subjects brought together artistic, scientific and technological ways of seeing the world.

In addition to providing creative and technical assistance for development of the exhibition, the USPTO has played a part in the public program development by working with the museum to provide:  speakers for university level courses as well as inventors from the National Inventors’ Hall of Fame for a lecture series.   There will also be a day and a half long inventors symposium held at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the USPTO will take the lead in providing experts to address the many challenges facing independent inventors and entrepreneurs.

Spotlight on Commerce: Phillip Singerman, Associate Director for Innovation and Industry Services at the National Institute of Standards and Technology

Portrait of Singerman

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.

Phillip Singerman is the Associate Director for Innovation and Industry Services at the National Institute of Standards and Technology

In January I was honored to be selected by Pat Gallagher, Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), to serve as Associate Director for Innovation and Industry Services, with responsibility for NIST’s suite of nationally recognized industry-partnership programs, the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the Technology Innovation Program, the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, technology transfer and SBIR grants.  These programs are central to NIST’s mission and to the president’s innovation strategy of using science and technology to drive economic development, and are staffed by professionals of skill, dedication and integrity.

My professional career has focused on economic development at the local, state and regional levels in public, non-profit and private organizations.  In my current role, I continue to have the opportunity to work with the regional public-private partnerships, young entrepreneurial firms and universities which populate the innovation ecosystem.   

This is my second turn at Commerce.  During the latter half of the 1990s I served as Assistant Secretary for Economic Development; what has struck me upon my return to the Department is the higher level of coordination among bureaus, particularly NIST with EDA, USPTO, and ITA, and the leadership exercised by the National Economic Council and Office of Science and Technology Policy to encourage inter-departmental collaboration.

Commerce Announces Appointment of First-Ever Chief Manufacturing Officer

Portrait of Molnar

The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today announced the appointment of the agency’s first-ever Chief Manufacturing Officer. The manufacturing sector is critical to the U.S. economy, and the Obama administration is committed to building domestic manufacturing capabilities to create the new products, new industries and new jobs of the future. The new position will leverage NIST’s strong relationships with industry to accelerate innovation that will create 21st-century manufacturing jobs and enhance our global competitiveness.

As Chief Manufacturing Officer, manufacturing industry executive Michael F. Molnar will be responsible for planning and coordination of the Institute’s broad array of manufacturing research and services programs and will support the broader Advanced Manufacturing Partnership recently launched by President Obama that brings industry, universities and the federal government together to invest in emerging technologies. NIST is particularly well-positioned to support this goal because of its unique mission to work closely with industry.

Molnar has extensive industrial experience, with past leadership roles in manufacturing technology, advanced manufacturing engineering, metrology and quality systems. He will serve as the central point of contact with the White House, the Department of Commerce and other agencies on technical and policy issues related to manufacturing.

Assistant Secretary Fernandez To Mayors: "Manufacturing Goes Hand-in-Hand with Innovation"

Assistant Secretary Fernandez Tells Mayor's "manufacturing goes hand in hand with innovation"

Guest Blog by John Fernandez, Assistant Secretary for Economic Development.

I had the pleasure of addressing the National Conference of Black Mayors 2011 Legislative Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. today. I focused on what the Obama administration is doing to grow local economic ecosystems and help create jobs, particularly in manufacturing.

The summit of almost 40 mayors from across the nation was a great opportunity for intergovernmental collaboration and provided an excellent platform to share best practices and discuss the challenges of creating jobs and increasing competitiveness. 

As a former mayor myself, I understood the pressing issues facing these leaders. They are the same issues the Obama administration is aggressively tackling at the federal level. And they all boil down to creating more jobs, particularly in manufacturing.

The manufacturing sector currently employs over 11 million Americans, providing good-paying jobs for millions of families. Preparing Americans to enter into the manufacturing sector will not only strengthen the economy and put folks back to work, it’s critical to our nation’s success as we compete in a 21st century global economy.