Massachusetts Business Czar Greg Bialecki’s Innovation Agenda: The Xconomy Interview, Part Two

9/4/09Follow @wroush

Gregory Bialecki is Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, and leads an ungainly collection of agencies charged with everything from promoting affordable housing in Massachusetts to attracting international business investment to the state. Here at Xconomy, we cross paths with Bialecki quite a bit, since he’s also responsible for many of the state’s initiatives to support high-tech innovation and greater collaboration between business, academia, and government.

I interviewed Bialecki at length last week, and in Part One of our conversation, published yesterday, I asked him how his work as an attorney specializing in real estate development and land-use permitting related to his current business-development role for the state. We also talked about the roles state government can play in promoting innovation. Bialecki said the Patrick Administration has spent much of the past two years simply helping players in various technology sectors to recognize that when it comes to working with business, state government can play a supportive rather than an adversarial role.

In particular, we were talking as Part One closed about the state’s obligation to help business by improving the quality of science, technology, engineering, and math education for young people. In this second half of the interview, I pressed him for more examples of things state government can do to accelerate innovation. And we went on to talk about the need for more funding to move ideas from the lab bench to early-stage commercialization, the debate over non-compete agreements in employment contracts, and the Administration’s progress drafting new business regulations on protecting consumer data.

Xconomy: I think it’s pretty easy for everyone to agree on the importance of science and engineering education. But what are some of the other parts of this innovation agenda—things that maybe are not so easy to agree on?

Secretary Bialecki: There are other aspects of the innovation ecosystem, if you will, where I think we can play a partnering role. When it comes to thinking up great ideas, Massachusetts is fantastic. But when it comes to converting those good ideas into commercial products and services, we need to do a better job. The way to do that is a collaboration between business and academia and government to look systematically at the ways we do that. In other words, what great ideas are behind the university walls right now that aren’t coming out? When I describe the state government [as] having a partnering role, in many cases it’s as simple as being a convenor or facilitator. So, for example, the Governor, who is very interested in innovation, has the capacity to say to all of the public and private universities, “Can we get together and compare notes and talk about how we are commercializing our ideas? Who has the best practices and are there things we can learn from each other? Are there things the state can do to make public universities better at it?”

That’s one of the things we are focused on—learning from universities and businesses the ways we can make these connections better and literally get good ideas out of the lab and into … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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  • http://researchscorecard.com Yannick Pouliot

    Great interview. I found Mr. Bialecki’s comment about “what great ideas are behind the university walls right now that aren’t coming out?” stirring, as this is precisely the motivation for ResearchScorecard.com’s expertise finding database, available free at ResearchScorecard.com.

    This (relatively new) class of knowledge management systems makes it possible for parties external to universities to peer behind their walls and discover the kinds of biomedical research ongoing, and to do so in *quantitative terms*.

    Furthermore, one of ResearchScorecard’s specific goals is to enable investors to quickly identify laboratories that are operating in their field of interest and how well they are doing.

    I wouldn’t claim that we’ve solved the Ivory Tower problem just yet, but our system and others of its ilk (e.g., Collexis) are the beginnings of a technology that can greatly in increase the transparency needed for technologists and investors to come together in the most informed manner possible.