On Thursday (H/T State Science and Technology Institute) Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced the formation of an Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The focus of the office will not be on the “Valley of Death” between idea generation and commercial product that parts of the Commerce Department have focused on for years, but on “the first step in the business cycle: moving an idea from someone’s imagination, or from a research lab, into a business plan.” This perspective seems consistent with that found in the recent Business Week column suggesting that simply teaching scientists how to be entrepreneurs would lead to an explosion of technology commercialization. But unlike that piece, there are parts of the government focused on other aspects of innovation, whether we’re talking about process or sector.
Besides the Office, which will report directly to the Secretary, there will be a National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. It will advise the Secretary and the Administration on issues related to Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and include entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors, non-profit leaders and other experts in these areas. This would bring in a group of individuals not typically found in Commerce (or science and technology) related advisory groups. As long as the Secretary and the Administration remembers that they are not the sole source and fount of all knowledge in innovation, things should be okay. But if they reflect and absorb a tunnel vision like that found in the column I mentioned earlier, than this office and the council will likely spark conflicts where they aren’t needed.