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U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Lock Wraps Up Series of Innovation Forums at Universities Across the Country

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

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U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Lock Wraps Up Series of Innovation Forums at Universities Across the Country

Locke to continue discussion on moving ideas from the lab to the marketplace with White House clean energy economy forum Friday

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Commerce’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Economic Development Administration hosted the final of four regional innovation forums today at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Since late June, the department has held forums at the University of Massachusetts, the University of Southern California, the University of Michigan and now Georgia Tech, each addressing the role of universities in innovation, economic development, job creation and commercialization of federally funded research. Together, these forums build upon a national dialogue Locke began in February when he engaged university leaders and key stakeholders in a discussion about how the Obama administration can help move ideas from the lab to the marketplace.

“America is not lacking for groundbreaking ideas. Nor are we short on entrepreneurs willing to take risks,” Locke said. “What we need to do is get better at connecting the great ideas to the great company builders.

“Here in Atlanta, you set a very high standard for how universities and the private sector can work with federal research dollars to create businesses and jobs right here in Georgia. Our goal is to make this high level of performance in technology commercialization the standard nationwide.”

Following today’s innovation forum, Locke will visit Suniva, a Georgia-based manufacturer that is advancing ways to make solar photovoltaic technology more cost-effective. The company’s affiliation with the Georgia Institute of Technology is an example of how public-private partnerships can help create and commercialize important new technologies.

The mission of the Department of Commerce, above all, is to make American businesses more innovative at home and more competitive abroad, so they can create jobs. To do that, the department is focused on research, innovation, and a culture of entrepreneurship that values risk-taking and discovery.

Throughout U.S. history, basic research in public and private sector research labs has spawned new technologies and inventions that led to new businesses. And those entrepreneurial businesses have been important drivers of job creation. Firms less than five years old have accounted for nearly all net new jobs in America over the last 30 years. Yet, as a share of gross domestic product, American federal investment in the physical sciences and engineering research has dropped by half since 1970.

Since taking office, the president has taken significant steps to turn around this trend. The Recovery Act included $100 billion to support groundbreaking innovations in diverse fields, from healthcare IT and health research to smart grids and high speed trains. Last fall, the president announced a National Innovation Strategy, which called for doubling the budgets of agencies including the National Science Foundation, to better support basic research at our nation's universities. And the president's 2011 budget – while freezing domestic discretionary spending overall – increases funding for civilian research and development by $3.7 billion, or nearly six percent.

At the University of Michigan forum Tuesday, Locke also announced the members of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, a group that will support President Obama's innovation strategy by helping to develop policies that foster entrepreneurship and identifying new ways to bring great ideas to market. To see the full list of council members representing businesses from across the country, click here.

Locke will continue to highlight the administration’s focus on innovation Friday by joining with other top administration officials to host a Clean Energy Economy Forum with business and community leaders, and state and local officials from across the country. The discussion, held at the White House, will focus on strategies to advance the development and commercialization of new clean energy technologies, support the creation and growth of emerging industries and small- and medium-sized enterprises, promote exports and train workers for the clean energy economy.