Science and Technology Innovation Program

Research Brief: Washington Goes to Sand Hill Road

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At a time when the federal government is attempting to ensure that the United States remains economically, technologically, and globally competitive, there is renewed interest in supporting innovative models and mechanisms that can spur and reward high-risk, high-reward research and development (R&D). Ranging from awarding competitive prizes to partnering with foundations and other non-profits such as regional technology based economic development and entrepreneurial support forums and specialized mission-oriented initiatives (e.g. the X-Prize Foundation), these funding approaches for science and technology have benefits that go beyond the traditional government request for proposals and grant-making competitions: they can address long-range, intractable, and "hard" problems; encourage the formation of multi-faceted, interdisciplinary teams; respond to quick turn-around and product-development cycles; and reward creative, out-of-the-box thinking. In many respects, they mirror funding schemes employed by private firms to stimulate innovation. The following paper by Athar Osama analyses one such pioneering approach by the federal government to encouraging high-risk, high-reward R&D: venture capital.

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