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A First 100 Days Innovation Agenda for the Next Administration

On November 13, 2012, the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution hosted a panel to look at ways to reform the U.S. economy, improve innovation, and address the difficult economic problems the country faces that need new solutions.  Questions posed included: How can policymakers encourage growth through innovation?  What areas offer the most promising growth for the 21st century?  The discussion coincided with the release of the Brookings paper, Building an Innovation-Based Economy, and focused on broad topics in the areas of infrastructure, entrepreneurship, knowledge transmission, and protecting digital assets.  Panelists included:

  • Darrell M. West, Vice President and Director of Governance Studies, Brookings (moderator)
  • Bob Boorstin, Director of Public Policy, Google
  • Allan A. Friedman, Fellow and Research Director, Center for Technology Innovation, Brookings
  • Alexander Howard, Washington Correspondent, O’Reilly Media
  • Walter D. Valdivia, Fellow, Center for Technology Innovation, Brookings
  • John Wilbanks, Senior Fellow, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

The panelists agreed that the industrial-based economy has developed into an information-based economy in which the Internet is a crucial platform for communications and commerce.  Among the eight big ideas discussed at the symposium to encourage an innovation-based economy several are of particular interest to the EDUCAUSE community.  These are:

  • Improve knowledge transmission through faster adoption of digital textbooks, more widespread use of creative commons licenses for instructional materials developed with taxpayer dollars, and policy changes that speed education innovation.
  • Increase technology transfer and the commercialization of knowledge from universities and federal laboratories so that public and private investments translate into jobs and economic activity as well as better health, security, and well-being.
  • Strengthen infrastructure by investing in broadband, data centers, and mobile cell towers, and improving access to spectrum for wireless applications.

The panelists agreed that there are a number of challenges in the current educational environment that constrain education and that building an educated and innovative workforce, while simultaneously reducing bottlenecks in the dissemination and commercialization of knowledge is key.  The openness movement – open research, open data, open government – provides opportunities for innovation to emerge when the research literature and academic search are easily accessible.  STEM education and analytics are also crucial areas for growth in the information-based economy.  There was consensus that higher education is being disrupted on many levels concurrently and that for the next ten years change will be the norm. 

They also spoke with one voice in saying that digital technology enables new forms of educational instruction through improvements in engagement, personalization, collaboration, and interactivity.  Today, however, there remain barriers to the realization of these objectives.  Digital textbooks are just one layer in this change along with the evolution of asymmetric learning (e.g., MOOCs).  The latter is proving successful as people are learning, but finding reliable methods of measuring progress is still in the early stages of development.

An archive of the webcast is available on the Brookings website.

EDUCAUSE will continue to monitor and report on this issue.