IMPACT: A Proposal for Realizing the Economic Potential of University Research
Currently, the federal government invests nearly $50 billion a year on university research -- yet very little on university programs to help translate the most promising ideas into new businesses and employment opportunities.
In a recent paper for Science Progress, Krisztina “Z”Holly outlined a specific policy proposal for how the federal government can catalyze economic growth and societal benefit with ideas spawned at major research universities. The IMPACT proposal, which she authored last summer at the urging of the White House Office for Science and Technology Policy, is a "proof of concept" initiative that would translate the most promising innovations into new products, services, and start-ups; increase engagement of faculty and students in the innovation and entrepreneurship process; and enhance regional ‘innovation ecosystems’ around universities.
The key to the program is that it is modest in cost yet big on impact, because it leverages the resources we already have in higher education. It focuses on what a university does best -- generating groundbreaking ideas, teaching lifelong innovators, and serving as a nexus for the local community. Ultimately, we hope that it scales to every corner of the country.
This concept is already gaining steam at an experimental level. The plan appears, in part, in the Obama Administration's National Science Foundation budget request as an additional $12 million for the Partnerships for Innovation Program for Fiscal Year 2011. Also, the U.S. Department of Commerce's Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship-in partnership with the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, programs-recently announced the i6 challenge, making available $1 million per site over two years for the six most innovative regional ideas to address these issues, with an additional $6 million supplemental funding for SBIR grantees associated with the winning projects. The Department of Energy similarly announced a $2.1 million pilot program along the same lines.
Furthermore, funding in the budget for the Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration would also support the development of regional innovation clusters. These are important first steps but need to be scaled up to have the long-term catalytic effect the administration is seeking and the country needs.
We know first-hand that these initiatives create jobs and economic prosperity. For example, in the last two years 16 USC spinouts raised at least $148 million in financing. These companies employ approximately 500 full-time employees, more than half locally in Los Angeles.
Now that the IMPACT initiative is in the Obama budget proposal for FY2011, we have a great opportunity for economic and societal impact through ideas generated at major research universities. Please spread the word with your colleagues. We need to gain more awareness and popular support behind the idea as Congress prepares to consider the budget in the coming months.
Science Progress: http://bit.ly/dr9LkO
New York Times: http://nyti.ms/byR78p
Federal News Radio: http://bit.ly/dcgp1q
Full IMPACT Paper: http://bit.ly/ABK3dX
White House OTSP Budget: http://bit.ly/WHBudget
Science Progress Paper: http://bit.ly/98dXtr
Read more about innovation research here.
This work by Krisztina "Z" Holly is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License