Innovation Will Set America Back on Track


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so pushing all science forward and rewarding the best thinkers is the right approach. History shows how these things play out — the replacement for oil, or the chemical that harnesses the power of the sun will likely come from a basic discovery in another field, not from applied research.

5. Provide Metrics for Regulatory Reform: Too often Congress (on both sides of the aisle) tends to get mired in the specifics of policy and loses sight of national goals. Nothing kills innovation and investment faster than regulatory uncertainty. For example, if we want to solve climate change, our government can’t ban solar power and wind farms from government owned land, as it is doing. And lower-cost personalized medicine, focused on prevention, is a fantasy if the FDA makes it cost $2 billion to approve each drug.

6. Appoint a Chief Technology Officer: As a technology evangelist, the CTO’s mission should be to track our goals and to look for regulatory errors and bureaucracy which slows things down, without slipping into “industrial policy” of picking “winning” industries.

7. Try a Tiny Step on Education of International Students: Currently we are severely undermining our own competitiveness by forcing the best and brightest in the world away from America. If these gifted people continue to go elsewhere, we lose. Let proven foreign graduate students in science hold a green card when they graduate as part of the Education bill (not an Immigration bill). We get to benefit from their expertise after investing our college resources in them. From the Manhattan Project to Apollo, we would have failed without international minds.

8. Attempt an Easy Foreign Policy Win: Energy is where we have a common interest with China. Chinese and American energy independence benefits the United States and reduces competition for oil. Our governments could work together in clean and green technology innovation for a healthier, more stable world.

9. Nurture Creative Education: Our basic education system needs fixing, but it already creates the most creative students in the world. Let’s reform it by rewarding performance and creativity and resist any movement urging “back to basics” standardization that only moves us backward.

10. Restore Global Confidence in America: Every American who has traveled in the last half decade knows the confidence and trust is lost. Let innovation become our olive branch to restore the world’s respect. We will lead the world by offering solutions to the major problems of our day — energy, terrorism, and disease.

Let’s keep on the trail of innovation. Let’s use our strengths to seize the moment and create unprecedented change. At the end of that trail is an economically re-charged America that is cleaner, healthier, and stronger.

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Robert Nelsen is a co-founder and a Managing Director of ARCH Venture Partners. He focuses on biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and nanotechnology. Follow @

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4 responses to “Innovation Will Set America Back on Track”

  1. Krassen says:

    “We reward the risk-takers.”
    No argument here:

  2. Rahm Emmanuel says: “Let’s not let a crisis go to waste.” The perfect storm of universal health care, the advent of baby boomers reaching Medicare age, the need to refinance and retool NIH and FDA, and the imperative to deliver on the promise of personalized medicine—- all roads lead to new alliances to accelerate the fruits biomedical research into products and services that improve health. VC’s, academic leaders, a new Tech Czar in DC, and forward-thinking biomed corporate leaders should embrace this opportunity.

  3. BKC says:


    Staying positive and looking at silver linings is good for the immune system.

    It’s beyond tragic that the wall street financial ‘risk takers’ (cough cough, $700B payoff) are being rewarded with our tax dollars and our children’s tax dollars while they have effectively pulled the liquidity rug out from under the life science industry.

    Interestingly, China is on the path to lead in patents shortly:

    There is an abundance of innovation and scientific advancement in this country. Thousands of patents sit untouched at the finest research universities in the world.

    It’s a shortage of accountability, regulation and, now, liquidity… the result of an abundance of empire building and greed, that leaves the industry hanging on a cliff.

    With the adults back in charge, let’s hope we recover our national standing and honor, and importantly, hold the law breakers accountable so we can avoid such fiascos in the future.

    The culling has begun…real people, real jobs lost…promising drug therapies abandoned…therapies and human capital are being set out on the curb.

    For perspective, $10 Billion spent each month in Iraq. 10,000 $10 Million Series A financings A MONTH. Clean tech, biotech.

    NIH Budget 2007 $28B. Three months in Iraq $30B.

    It is up to us to hold those in office accountable to enact the change we need.


  4. ckaspereli says:

    In every market downturn untold numbers of projects get shelved along with any patent filings that may have emerged. People move on and work on other things, if work is available. In a recession it’s not enough merely to innovate, people have to be able to afford to buy things. Big internationals are cash wealthy for the most part and are reluctant to initiate expensive projects with an uncertain future. We need startups to pick up the slack, startups to hire people, startups to reignite innovation. We need to put money into the hands of ordinary people, not Big Banks or megalithic internationals which will just sit on it.