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Spurring Innovation During National Entrepreneurship Month

By: Karen Dunn Kelley

American ingenuity has powered our nation through advances in technologies such as integrated circuits, personal computers, and the Internet. Through recessions and economic booms, innovation has remained the hallmark of the U.S. economy. Americans have consistently invented revolutionary new technologies and, in the process, created immense global industries. If the United States is to remain the world’s leader in science, technology, invention and commercialization, we must continue to foster a vibrant culture of entrepreneurship.

While our economy is powered by the private sector, the federal government plays an important role in creating an environment conducive to sustained entrepreneurial growth. Limiting the red tape that impedes research and development will enable our researchers to make important breakthroughs in quantum computing, artificial intelligence, robotics, and dozens of other critical technologies. To promote the creation of new industries, we are removing burdensome regulations that stifle private sector growth and innovation.

Many existing industries are being renewed by a combination of new technologies and new entrepreneurs. Space is one such industry. In order to unleash the U.S. space industry so it can reach its full potential, the Department of Commerce has elevated its Office of Space Commerce to the Office of the Secretary of Commerce. We are expanding its staff and are hiring professional space experts who are focused on ensuring America’s preeminence in a projected trillion-dollar-a-year industry.

The higher-profile Office of Space Commerce will complement the President’s recent reconstitution of the National Space Council. Additionally, the office is working closely with private industry as technology rapidly develops, with the knowledge that private-sector ingenuity is critical to this area.

The Minority Business Development Agency is also pushing the private sector space commerce industry forward, and has awarded a grant to the Space Foundation to develop national workshops that focuses on bringing minority business leaders into the greater space commerce community.

Elsewhere at the Department, the Patent and Trademark Office is finding new ways to fulfill its constitutional mandate to “promote the progress of science and useful arts.” By clarifying patent standards and improving review procedures, entrepreneurs can more easily monetize their investments in new technologies, processes, and products. The Patent and Trademark Office is providing outreach and guidance to America’s innovative startups, devoting considerable attention to building capabilities in our local communities.

The National Institute of Science and Technology, another Department of Commerce bureau, is engaged in a new effort to enhance the transfer of promising technologies from national laboratories and universities into the private sector. This “Lab-to-Market” initiative will enable America’s entrepreneurs to turn underutilized advances developed with federal R&D funds into new companies and industries. In the process, it will ensure a higher return on taxpayer investments being made in critical technologies.

The Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is also supporting innovation in the private sector through its Regional Innovation Strategies and the i6 Challenge programs. EDA has worked with more than 4,000 entrepreneurs and startups in 37 U.S. states and territories, resulting in more than 7,000 jobs, 1,661 product launches, and 545 new patents. Between 2014 and 2018, EDA grants made under its Seed Fund Support program have provided financing to 158 startups, resulting in $91 million in new local venture funds, $18.9 million in new company investments, and 1,042 new jobs.

The Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, in order to ensure America’s entrepreneurial leadership, is developing policies to spur the growth of advanced wireless and new 5G technologies. This will result in a potentially boundless source of new apps and industries, similar to what occurred as a result of America’s investment in 4G LTE.

The Department of Commerce is also marshalling its resources to benefit business in low income communities through the Opportunity Zones tax incentive program created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. EDA is focusing its business development funding on designated Opportunity Zones. The Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis are utilizing available economic data to provide new Opportunity Zone businesses with the statistical data they need to succeed.

The United States cannot lead the global economy without empowering entrepreneurs who continue to reinvigorate old industries and invent new ones. The Trump Administration understands that entrepreneurs require a favorable business environment to enable their success. The Department of Commerce is devoted to removing barriers to new business formation, and creating the conditions by which any intrepid American can create a flourishing business.