Catching up on some older news, BusinessWeek ran a special report a couple of weeks ago on Growth Through Innovation. One of the interesting features was a slideshow on Obama’s 25 ways to Rebuild America. Right now, there is a lot of talk in Washington about the next jobs and economic agenda — including what to do to spur innovation. I’ve been to numerous meetings and conferences trying to come up with and refine specific policy ideas. The BusinessWeek list is different. It takes of a technology and industry specific (industrial policy?) approach. Other than the idea of using prizes, such as the X-prize, the entire list is of technological challenges in areas such as energy, environment, health, and transportation. The BusinessWeek list looks an expansion of the “Grand Challenges” described at the end of the Obama Innovation White Paper released a few months ago (see earlier postings). So there seems to be some consensus. The question now, of course, is what are the mechanisms for addressing those challenges. There are a number of policy tools — from direct funding of R&D to loans for production to government procurement to prizes to regulations. Figuring out the appropriate mix of policies will be the real challenge.
By the way, the Business Week special report has more on innovation than just these Grand Challenges. For example, in includes an essay by Roger Martin on his new book, The Design of Business. More on that later.