Innovation and the Presidential candidates

Last week, I mentioned the latest issue of Business Week’s Inside Innovation. That issue is running a piece on Proposed Presidential Innovation:

BusinessWeek questioned the leading candidates in the Republican and Democratic parties about their views on innovation. First we asked for their definition of the word. Innovation is not simply invention. It involves creating value, both in business and in civic society. Their responses varied from broad visions to specific policy proposals.
Then we asked for their plans to stimulate innovation in four major areas—science and engineering education, green energy, the military, research and development—as well as how they would develop better ways to measure innovation.

Of course, they are not the only ones looking at the candidates positions on these issues. Over at EntreWorks Insights, Erik Pages has listed a summary of the candidates’ positions on economic development and the innovative economy:

We’ve dug through the various candidate’s web sites and position papers and tried to give a sense of how they might govern in issue areas such as regional economic development, science and technology, innovation, and the like. It’s still a little early for extremely detailed policy proposals, but you can get a sense of how candidates might govern if elected to our nation’s highest office.

I won’t try to summarize that various candidate’s positions – you will have to read the articles yourself. But I will make a quick comment on the framing of the issue. I found it very interesting that Business Week says “innovation is not simply invention.” But they fail to focus on this, choosing rather to look at the four specific areas of R&D. In other words, innovation is not invention but is R&D and S&T. No questions about other aspects of innovation policy — such as the role of the government beyond basic research or questions about financing/venture capital or about how to stimulate and capture user-driven innovation or the role of the US in a global innovation system. BW does get kudos for raising the question of measuring innovation.
The EntreWorks summary covers a broader range of topics, but suffers from that problem of all summaries – it is a distillation of what the candidates have already said, not what questions need to be asked. In all fairness, of course, EntreWorks doesn’t have the clout of a Business Week in asking the questions.
This Presidential election cycle is It is both compressed and strung out. The compression is in the front end of the primaries. It is possible that we will know the nominees by the President’s Day break. It is strung out in that it has been going for some time — and we are only now under a year from the election date. So there will still be plenty of time to ask the key questions of the candidates. And for the candidates to refine and expand their positions on innovation and the I-Cubed Economy – beyond the standard answer of “more R&D.”

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