What if America Had an Innovation Czar?

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The global economies that will fare best this century are those that will be the most innovative and productive. Think-tank wonks and Wall Street economists give this topic a lot of thought. But smart guys outside the 212 and 202 area codes have just as many good ideas–probably more. So I decided to ask some of them via E-mail what they would do if they were appointed U.S. innovation czar. (Consider this a sneak preview of a larger story I am working on.)

Kevin Kelly, founding executive editor of Wired magazine, author of New Rules for the New Economy, board member of the Long Now Foundation.

  1. More large prizes, like the Grand Challenger, for specificresults. Cheap, effective, popular. The best Mars rover gets sent toMars, etc.
  2. Reform patent law, to reflect reality of current conditions (nosubmarine patents, etc.).
  3. Mandate science fairs in high schools, the secret sauces forAmerican innovation.
  4. Open-source scientific literature.
  5. Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks and founder of HDNet cable channel.

    I would encourage kids to not get jobs right after college unless they were sure they were doing exactly what they loved. Going right to work more often than not keeps people from finding out what they are passionate about and puts them in the settle-down fast track. When you can find your passion, it's far easier to be great at whatever that is. The fewer responsibilities and financial obligations people have, the more risks they are willing to take.

    Guy Kawasaki, Apple Computer legend, founder and managing director of Garage Technology Ventures, a venture capital firm.

    1. Provide the funding and freedom for local universities to create the bestengineering schools possible.
    2. Create a stock options program that provides employees with tremendous upside.
    3. Enable foreigners to study and work here with a flexible and fast visaprogram.
    4. Here's what not to do:

      1. Create special tax incentives unless you want special interests toexploit them.
      2. Create a venture capital fund, because capital isn't the issue; good ideasare (which is why we need engineering schools and foreigners).
      3. Appoint an innovation czar who might create an empire and bureaucracy.Who says we need a czar?
      4. Do you have some ideas about what America could do to be more innovative? E-mail them to me at jpethokoukis@usnews.com