Posted at 5:45 PM
It isn’t every day you get the Secretary of Commerce, leaders from Fortune 500 companies, and 80 startups in a room, much less a room in a government building. But this past Monday the Commerce library was buzzing with energy as the Department hosted its first-ever Open for Innovation event. This event highlighted Commerce’s role as America's Innovation Agency and the Administration's commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship as an imperative to keeping America competitive in a global economy.
The event provided the opportunity for more than 80 startups to pitch their most innovative idea to solve a complex business challenge from one of eight established corporations. The corporations in attendance included American Cancer Society, BASF, Comcast, Microsoft, Samsung, Time, Inc., Thales, and Unilever.
Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews set the stage for the afternoon, sharing the vast assets the Department brings to the innovation economy. Ian Kalin, Chief Data Officer, then shared the opportunities available through Commerce’s Open Data Initiative and challenged the entrepreneurs in the room to consider how they might be able to leverage open data to drive new solutions that solve real problems. Secretary Pritzker also addressed attendees, highlighting that while companies must continue to invest in their internal research and development, partnering with innovative startups was a great way to source fresh, creative solutions to pressing challenges.
The event featured a panel discussion with representatives from Comcast, Time, Inc., Samsung, and BASF focused on the benefits of working with startups to foster better innovation. A candid conversation amongst the panelists provided practical insights on ways startups can engage with corporations, and specifically shared best practices in building lasting partnerships that could result in real capital for the startups through revenue or direct investment.
The Open for Innovation event is yet another example of the Department’s support for America’s startups and presents a tangible model of how corporations can better partner with new businesses to solve complex challenges. In this case, the program not only provided information to startups about the benefits, methods, and approaches to working with large companies, but actually facilitated mutually beneficial partnerships, driving what we hope will lead to real contracts for the startups and sustained partnerships with the large companies in attendance.
This event was a part of the White House Demo Day, which President Obama hosted on August 4. The focus of Demo Day was to highlight the need for more inclusion in entrepreneurship and included several pledges from Commerce-led programs to support those goals.
While these two days put the spotlight on innovation and entrepreneurship, Secretary Pritzker and the rest of the Commerce Department remain committed to being Open for Innovation and will continue to catalyze on that theme through the rest of the Administration.