Council Sets Up Plans for Innovation Economy

Published in UT San Diego, December 15, 2014

In October, Barbara was appointed to the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship by Commerce Secretary Penny NACIE_2Pritzker. She is the first San Diegan to serve on the panel and was one of 27 people selected. The group, which was started in 2010, is based in the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration with the mission of identifying and recommending solutions that will allow innovation-economy entrepreneurs and businesses to succeed in a globally competitive environment.

She recently attended the group’s first meeting in Washington, D.C., and here is her report.

What was the most special about the NACIE meeting was the people I met — a diverse group of entrepreneurs, workforce development experts, investors, educators and executives from big companies. Before I tell you about what we discussed and our plans for the next two years, I’d like you to meet a few of them.

• Stephen Tang is the president and CEO of the University City Science Center in Philadelphia, the nation’s oldest and largest urban research park. In the early 1950s, his father came to the U.S. from China to study chemical engineering at the University of Wisconsin. His father spent his entire career at DuPont, and Tang’s mother was a clinical chemist.

Tang earned a doctorate in chemical engineering from Lehigh University and an M.B.A. from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Before joining the science center, he had a successful business career, having led a life-science company through venture funding and an initial public offering.

• Lila Ibrahim is a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, often called one of the most successful venture firms ever, and she also serves as the president of Coursera, a leading online education platform.

Before joining KPCB, Ibrahim spent 18 years at Intel, where she was based in China and was responsible for the company’s emerging-markets products group. Her father, who was raised in an orphanage in Lebanon, became an electrical engineer and immigrated to the United States. Over the past decade, Ibrahim has established and sustained three computer labs at the orphanage in Lebanon where her father was raised.

• Julie Goonewardene serves as the associate vice chancellor for innovation and strategic investment for the University of Texas system that includes nine academic universities and six health institutions.

Goonewardene brings a real-world perspective to the job having been a successful entrepreneur in information technology. She is a first-generation American born to parents from Sri Lanka and Australia.

I wish I had the space to tell you about more of these amazing people. What you can clearly see is that this is a group well-qualified to deal with the question:

What transformational investments and policies should the federal government facilitate that would help communities, businesses and the workforce be globally competitive?

Over the next two years, our mission is to develop practical actions with tangible outcomes.

At our first meeting, we heard from senior government officials including Julie Kirk, director of the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Economic Development Administration, Michelle Lee, deputy under secretary of commerce for the Patent and Trademark Office, and, of course, Pritzker, who greeted us warmly in the morning and returned at the end of the day when our committees presented our preliminary thoughts on our plans for the next two years.

We met in a Commerce Department conference room, but I want to assure you that no taxpayer money was spent. All of us paid for our own travel expenses and $10 for our lunch in a Commerce cafeteria. A generous staff member paid for our coffee.

To accomplish our work, we have been divided into three committees:

• Innovation (the committee on which I serve): Focus on technology commercialization from both federal labs and universities and the next generation of incubators.

• Workforce/talent: Focus on ensuring there is a ready supply of people with the right skills that businesses need.

• Entrepreneurship: Focus on entrepreneurial education and programs that support entrepreneurship.

I am deeply honored to have been selected, and now I am going to get an up-close and personal opportunity to see if I can be part of “making government work” to help grow our innovation economy, which is so important to San Diego.

Rule No. 382

Be careful what you wish for; you may get it.


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