October Meeting | TechTober: 2nd Annual Update on Tech Policy

This month, we welcomed back local policy and advocacy gurus Tracey Greene and Cassandra Stish to give us an update on local, state, and national tech policy in celebration of “TechTober“. Thanks to WillowTree for sponsoring this month’s event!

About the presenters:

Cassandra is a lifelong learner, entrepreneur and self-admitted policy wonk whose love affair with technology spans over 30 years. She’s worked with all aspects of technology, from agile project planning to web development and mentoring startups. Currently, she is leading the charge to bring her most recent project, FlagPoll, to market.

Tracey’s passion for igniting the Charlottesville area’s entrepreneurial and high-tech community is evident by her extensive volunteer roles over the past 15 years, coupled with her current roles as Executive Director of the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council (CBIC) and the Charlottesville Angel Network, which she founded in 2015. Tracey has served for more than 25 years in sectors including biotechnology, start-ups, trade association and non-profit management in a variety of roles, including communications, public relations, marketing, and technology training.

 

the-policy-effect
Why is policy important? What meaningful impact does it have on R&D and the tech ecosystem?

Post-WWII Innovation Policy Led the World

Historically, when National Security, Economic Stability, Intelligence and Global Leadership are at stake, policy is generated to kickstart and fund innovative technology. Examples:

  • Space Race and NASA
  • Satellite tech
  • Nuclear tech
  • Spytech and cold war
  • Clean energy
  • Automobiles – first Fords to fuel efficiency

Policy Questions:

Q: Why should the government be involved in technological innovation? 

Promote it or manage it because of the social, economic, and political effects that result.

Q: How does the government currently act on the innovation process?

  • Increase productivity
  • Retard inflation
  • Improve international competitiveness
  • National security

When is direct intervention necessary?

  • Appropriability Challenge – gap funding to bolster R&D not yet mature enough to secure private funding
  • Structural Characteristics of an Industry – certain industries are too small or fragmented to support R&D effort. Or, can’t fund risky or market-disturbing long term innovations
  • Societal/Political Needs – “Public Goods Problem”: Certain goods whose benefits are difficult or impossible to deny a citizen who is unwilling to pay for them (for example, National Defense)

America is slow to Innovate its Innovation Policy

For more information:

US Innovation for Competitive Economy

Making moves to reinvigorate innovation sector and regain edge:

  • US ranks 4th in the world for new patents
  • Ranked most committed to cyber security (Business Wire)
  • US government ranks dead last in cyber security compared against other major industries (SecurityScoreCard)
  • The White House made improving cyber security a priority by requesting $19B from Congress for FY2017
  • US Policy identifies STEM as vitally important as they repealed No Child Left Behind Act + replace with Every Student Succeeds Act but policy fails to link STEM to a budget line item, leaving it in direct competition with other programs

Policy – Balancing Innovation with Public Good

Government regulation can either accelerate or impede the adoption of new ideas. Politicians and regulators are often wary of change.

Example: Uber. In the US, customer demand has mostly overwhelmed attempts by cities and states to stop the company from operating. But, in France, Uber has been banned.

Sometimes the best thing a government can do to promote innovation is to get out of the way.

Balance: The tipping point is always moving

Innovation is the underpinning of most all social goals of any given society; therefore, innovation is a critical element of most government policies.

Leading out of need

Innovation often outpaces policy and regulation. It’s better to beg forgiveness than to wait for permission:

  • Cyber security – a fast-growing sector, especially for women
  • Unmanned vehicles
  • Drones
  • AI – the resulting reduction in jobs is a HUGE question that policy-makers are trying to answer. Social experiments going on now with base income (people make a certain amount of money with no need to work. What do they do with their time? This could become a reality as AI tech improves)
  • Airbnb
  • Uber

Bring it Close to Home

  • State championed STEM education – Girl Develop It, Code VA
  • CIT – Gap funds and Innovation Acceleration
  • GoVirginia – a new program to bring more private industry into “The Gap” between R&D and private sector
  • Mayor’s Council on Technology – Local discussion on how to strengthen the Tech/innovation/entrepreneurial eco-system
  • CBIC and the VTA – Local and statewide conversations to share idea, celebrate, and connect

Local Government Leaning In

Mayor’s Tech & Innovation Advisory Council; recurring convention of local politicos, organization, company, and university thought leaders on strategic topics:

  • Local marketing campaign: tech talent attraction and retention
  • Tech zones/tax credits: reduce fees/taxes to qualifying companies
  • Zoning ordinances
  • Infrastructure: housing, office space, transport, funding
  • Town and Gown
  • Community Engagement e-Forum

Why Tech Matters: Jobs for all

The creation of one high-tech job in a region is associated with the creation of more than four additional jobs in the local services economy of the same region – Kauffman Foundation, 2013

 

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