U.S. Innovation and Entrepreneurship Council Quietly Holds First Meeting in DC, Starting with Steve Case-Hosted Dinner

9/2/10Follow @gthuang

It’s a big day for U.S. innovation strategy. The National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship is holding its first official meeting at the Department of Commerce in Washington, DC, today—and Xconomy has some exclusive details.

The council, made up of 26 national leaders in business, technology, and academia, is charged with helping the Obama administration “develop a broader strategy to spur innovation and enable entrepreneurs to develop breakthrough technologies and dynamic companies, and to create jobs all across America,” according to a statement made earlier this summer by U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

In July, Locke, the former Governor of Washington, announced the members of the advisory council at a forum held at the University of Michigan. They include Tom Alberg, co-founder of Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group; Curt Carlson, CEO of SRI International; Steve Case, chairman and CEO of Revolution and co-founder of AOL; Robin Chase, co-founder of Zipcar and GoLoco; Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan; Desh Deshpande, chairman of A123Systems, Sycamore Networks, and Tejas Networks; Ken Morse, former head of the MIT Entrepreneurship Center; Carl Schramm, president and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation; Charles Vest, president of the National Academy of Engineering and former president of MIT; and Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo. (Carlson, Chase, Morse, and Vest are “Xconomists,” informal editorial advisors to Xconomy.)

Group members reported that Steve Case, co-chair of the council (along with Coleman and Deshpande), hosted a dinner for the group at an area restaurant last night. Xconomy also has it on good authority that Case went to high school with President Barack Obama at the Punahou School in Honolulu, HI, back in the day.

Robin Chase, who’s based in Cambridge, MA, says she recently took part in a small pre-meeting of council members from her region to discuss ideas they might bring to the meeting today. Some ideas that came up included: having a program where university students who want to start a company could have an advisor and get credit for it; and giving students work-study pay for working on their startup ideas.

“As I think about my recommendations, the things that have come up, they’re almost all about reducing impediments,” says Chase. Some people, she says, feel that the best way to help entrepreneurs is to provide more money. Her view is different. “Those that will be successful are the ones who will have to scramble. It’s evolution. It’s Darwinian,” she says. “Money isn’t the impediment, but there are other impediments.”

Curt Carlson of SRI wrote in an e-mail: “Major improvements in innovation outcomes are possible…Innovation is an essential element of the solution, if we are to address our debt and job creation problems. Many/most areas of America must be improved: taxes, regulations, R&D, government services, university education, K-12, etc.” Asked what he hoped would be discussed or accomplished at the council meeting, Carlson wrote, “I always point to treating new companies differently—and better—than big ones. That is where the jobs are created.”

Today’s meeting wasn’t a secret, but it doesn’t seem to have been promoted in any way. To help prepare for it, members of the council received a copy of President Obama’s September 2009 whitepaper on national innovation policy, which talks about promoting competition, strengthening the entrepreneurship ecosystem, and pushing such areas as clean energy, advanced vehicles, and healthcare, among other things. We might have more to report after the meeting, so watch this space.

Robert Buderi contributed reporting to this story.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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