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FCW : November 30, 2012
The government's role in spurring innovation "Innovation Economics: The Race for Global Advantage," published in Septem- ber by Yale University Press, explores the conditions that have caused the United States to fall behind other countries in the competition for the innovation advantage. Authors Robert D. Atkinson and Stephen J. Ezell assess a wide range of factors to understand the challenges the country faces in regaining its position as a leader in innovation. Atkinson is founder and president of the Infor- mation Technology and Innovation Foundation, and Ezell is a senior analyst there. This excerpt describes what the authors believe is the govern- ment's role in carrying out innovative research and creating policies that encourage private-sector innovation. While lack of resources is not always the problem, sometimes money mat- ters. Cases in point are the numerous federal agencies that play a key role in innovation but that are woefully underfunded. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Of ce used to be the envy of other nations for its effectiveness and ef ciency. But today a backlog of more than 700,000 patent applica- tions at the USPTO means that most applicants will wait at least three years for a decision. Likewise, there have been increased delays at the Food and Drug Administration for drug and device approval and dif culties in upgrad- ing the scienti c expertise needed to expeditiously and effectively evaluate new drugs and biological submis- sions. The U.S. Trade Representative s Of ce brings relatively few cases before the World Trade Organization to challenge the mercantilist practices of other nations. And the U.S. statistical system needs to do a better job of providing the kinds of data that would help policy-makers understand the true condition of the U.S. innovation system. In all of these cases, lack of funding has been the principal cause of suboptimal performance, and more resources would boost performance. Innovation impact analysis Innovation is the poor stepchild of cost/ bene t analysis. For more than 30 years, the Of ce of Management and Budget s Of ce of Information and Regulatory Affairs has reviewed proposed federal agency actions on the basis of cost/ bene t analysis. In other words, will the agency regulation or action lead to bene ts that exceed their costs? This is certainly important, but there is almost no analysis of how federal actions will affect innovation. To remedy this, Congress should establish a small Of ce of Innovation Review (OIR) within the OMB whose mission would be to champion innova- tion within these processes. Such an entity would add an important new voice to the regulatory conversation. There would now be an entity speak- ing clearly and forthrightly on the centrality of innovation. More impor- tant, the OIR would not merely have a voice, it would be able to remand agency actions that harm innovation. It would also propose regulations that foster innovation. This is no small matter. Indeed, it would change the regulatory playing eld overnight. Funding tied to performance The federal government routinely provides monies to other organiza- tions (state and local governments, educational institutions, health care providers, and the like) to achieve some public purpose. But all too often, A new book makes the case for greater federal investment and updated policies to help the U.S. regain its competitive advantage BY ROBERT D. ATKINSON AND STEPHEN J. EZELL Bookshelf 30 November 30, 2012 FCW.COM Innovation is the poor stepchild of cost/bene t analysis.
November 15, 2012