Health With a Capital H

U.S. National Innovation Strategy Keys on Investments, Entrepreneurs

October 14, 2009

Contributed by Dan Johnson

photo of Dan Johnson, Technical Assistant to the CEO

While early U.S. recovery efforts focused on bailing out banks, triage for the housing market, and other emergency measures, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act also includes significant funding for a national innovation strategy that takes the long view. More than $100 billion in Recovery Act funds is waiting in the wings to support technical innovation, sustainable growth, and job creation. The President described the thinking behind his new "Strategy for American Innovation" in a speech at Hudson Valley Community College, in Troy, New York, September 21.

The Administration offers a three-step strategy: "Invest in the building blocks of innovation; promote competitive markets that spur productive entrepreneurship; and catalyze breakthroughs for national priorities."

The "building block" phase is designed to create a broad base for innovation through investments in fundamental research, future-focused education and workforce training, and the construction of physical infrastructure (such as next-generation mass transit, air traffic control, and electric grid). A fourth component, to develop an advanced information technology "ecosystem," receives special emphasis. The budget supports increased research funding for the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop next-generation information and communications technology, including $7.1 billion for broadband expansion. Investments in information technology are linked to an Administration effort to ensure open Internet access and neutrality, recently announced by FCC Chair Julius Genachowski.

The Government agenda for investing in U.S. entrepreneurship includes an outward focus to promote American exports by ensuring fair and open international markets. It also emphasizes support of open U.S. capital markets that allocate resources domestically to fund the most promising ideas. It encourages fast-growing, highly innovative U.S. entrepreneurs, who have a high capacity to create new businesses and jobs that drive economic growth. Finally, the strategy supports both public sector and community innovation: greater openness, efficiency, and collaboration from a Government that can leverage information technology and the adoption of best practices identified through community initiatives.

The payoff will be breakthroughs in sectors of "exceptional national importance where the market is unlikely to produce desirable outcomes on its own," according to the Administration. These include: clean energy initiatives (smart grid, energy efficiency, and renewable technologies such as wind and solar); advanced vehicle technologies (batteries, biofuels, advanced combustion, and electric cars); and Health care technology (to reduce medical errors, lower costs, and improve quality of care). A fourth priority, addressing "grand challenges" of the 21st century, could generate other payoffs, such as educational software that provides effective individualized instruction and a cure for cancer via "smart" therapeutics capable of delivering drugs to tumor cells without harming healthy surrounding cells.

The report includes a top 12 list of sectors slated to receive Recovery Act funds, with renewable energy and energy efficiency ($30+ billion) taking a wide lead. Of great interest to IQ Solutions and the Health knowledge community, though, is that Health information technology and Health research are ranked second and third, with a combined investment of just under $30 billion. That's ahead of education and training, advanced vehicles and biofuels, smart grid interconnection and transmission, and six other high-priority areas. In a speech at the National Institutes of Health on September 30, President Obama noted that significant Health investments will be directed toward "applying what scientists have learned through the Human Genome Project to help us understand, prevent, and treat various forms of cancer, heart diseases, and autism."