Renewing the Nation’s Innovation Ecosystem

University and Lab Technology Transfer, Entrepreneurship and Venture, Scale Up Challenges for New Technologies

The innovation ecosystem concept highlights the multiple intersecting and layered networks of cooperation underpinning the nation’s innovation and manufacturing activities.   However, there is a growing concern that key parts of this ecosystem are under stress, hampering the development and manufacturing of innovative technologies within the United States. 

Renewing this ecosystem is essential to encourage the scale up of innovative products across small and large companies. U.S. competitors sustain this middle space in their innovation and manufacturing systems in different ways. Corporate conglomerates in Japan and Korea have long played a central role in allocating resources to new products without the need for immediate returns.  Today, large state-owned enterprises in China address the technology scale-up challenge aided by their manufacturing expertise and the acquisition of foreign technologies. Importantly, Chinese firms are often supported by their ability to draw on substantial infusions of public resources and benefit from de facto protection in the domestic market. In Taiwan, ITRI has had a particularly distinguished record in launching new innovative businesses A singular success of this model is TSMC which has transformed the semiconductor industry. In Germany, the Fraunhofer institutes and research centers—which also receive extensive public funding—serve to bridge the space between the research base and industrial application often with particular attention to the needs of SMEs. This mezzanine infrastructure of applied research and the financial support for scale-up to manufacture is often missing or inadequate in the United States.

In this context, the focus of university and laboratory technology transfer must broaden from pushing ideas out of the lab to growing the capacity of the nation’s regions to capitalize on this research and develop the clusters to successfully produce next generation products here in the U.S.  Growing and connecting a network of locally focused innovation ecosystems is especially important in an age when ideas that emerge from U.S. laboratories and universities are often developed and commercialized overseas—to the advantage of our competitors and rivals.