New ways to accelerate green energy and jobs
The innovation economy depends on inventors. And inventors need more support.
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2. It costs too much and takes too long to get a patent – typically many years and tens of thousands of dollars. Let’s provide a faster patenting system. There should be fixed deadlines for final action on green and other technology patent applications. Tax revenues from having more commercialized products would pay for the additional examiners and generate a profit.
3. There’s no central physical meeting place. Stakeholders in green technology need a place to meet. Let’s create Local Technology Centers (LTCs) in each state – perhaps 100 of them – where inventors, businesses, law firms, investors, government representatives, and engineers all could meet.
Federal funding could be provided to each state, along with LTC guidelines, yet states must have the flexibility to create custom approaches. This allows best-of-breed approaches to be replicated.
These LTCs would be an entrepreneur’s bazaar. They would have meeting rooms, secretarial support, and engineering software. Investors could get advice on patents and business matters from law firms, consultants, and venture capital firms, and meet with research institutions.
There would be facilities for fabricating prototypes. It would buzz with all the players working together in the creative process. Retired executives, engineers, and others could be added as a green technology volunteer corps or be paid by getting an equity share of the invention.
A breeding ground for ideas and deals
Cross-fertilization and deals would occur on the spot around the water cooler. Inventors could present their invention with a simple business plan to a panel of experts. And a funding decision could be reached in as little as 10 days. (Speed is essential.) Winners would receive a substantial grant, say $100,000, to spend at any LTC for anything – legal support, engineering advice, and so on.
Funding could be done on a “self-licking ice-cream cone” model, used by venture capital firms. Government seed money could start the centers. Next, the inventor could grant a small percentage of company’s equity to the LTC. If the product became profitable, the inventor would pay back the funds received plus interest or a small percentage of the profit.
Or, venture capital could augment federal funds in a private sector/government partnership. For example, a private investment group could raise private funds to coinvest with the government in starting up the LTCs, or handle the whole investment itself. That investment fund would be able to pick the best of the best of thousands of promising inventions and reap a fair profit in return. In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s strategic investment firm, has been successful with a somewhat similar approach.
In his speech to the nation about the oil crisis and the need for new technology last month, President Obama gave us a mission: “Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash America’s innovation and seize control of our own destiny.”
So let’s think big, America. Through tBays, LTCs, and other needed reforms, we can solve the green Grand Canyon problem. Then we can regain our technology leadership in the world and create more green technology and jobs a lot faster.
David J. Muchow is president and CEO of SkyBuilt Power, a renewable-energy company.