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Opening Remarks at Unleashing American Innovation Symposium

Good morning. Good morning and welcome.

It is another great morning for our great nation, and we are here, first, to celebrate America—how far our grit, our ingenuity, our innovation have taken us as a country. And we're also here to consider “what next?”

I'm Walter Copan, Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and director of our National Institute of Standards and Technology, NIST.

As we begin here in the Institute of Peace, just a brief note for your safety: In the event of an emergency, there are two primary exits—one in the rear of the auditorium and one here to your right in the front.

We'll reflect today at this gathering of thought leaders on the milestones that mark the development of America into the world's great engine of innovation.

And we ask you to join with us in imagining a new, faster, higher trajectory of American innovation. This is a journey of optimism, of spirit, of determination, and of the American dream, and of unleashing the power of innovation in the 21st century. I'm honored to be here today to help launch a very important initiative for our nation.

This event is called Unleashing American Innovation because that's exactly what we intend to do. NIST is leading this renewed national effort on behalf of the Department of Commerce, in cooperation with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, side by side with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and with the National Science Foundation. And together with all federal agencies in the nation's science and technology enterprise.

We're engaging stakeholders across the U.S. public and private sectors, and we have a very clear focus on our goal. We want to maximize the transfer of federal investments in science and technology into value for America. Into inventions, into software and tools, into private-sector products and services that create jobs, into growing U.S. manufacturing and expanding our economy.

Thank you for being here. This is a group with great power. I believe that each of you is a catalyst in the nation's journey to a new level of innovation performance.

Your voice will be heard. We ask you to join in, share the results, the best practices that have proven valuable. Help bring more strong networks that are vital for U.S. innovation and our ecosystems to flourish for the next generation.

In the decade after World War II, the United States committed to investment in federal research and development as a cornerstone of economic growth.

It worked. It is working today. Billions in economic value are created each year as a result. We are in an era of unprecedented global competition, an environment of new opportunity as well as threat. The role of federal R&D remains absolutely essential today. This is an era of accelerating technology.

We're inventing new business models, new currencies. We're seeing legacy industries being transformed or overtaken. And with these, we see shifts in commerce, trade, standards, the balance of trade, alliances, and the balance of power globally.

The Bayh-Dole Act and the Stevenson-Wydler Act, both passed in 1980, were transformative for America. They are the crucible for modern technology transfer and innovation. This legislation established the federal obligation across all agencies to invent, and also with our universities and research institutes to own and to license these inventions as stewards and champions to incentivize innovation, to drive active development through translational research, and to demonstrate research and development results broadly to spur the commercial technology adoption.

Updates in the Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986 and through the America Competes Acts of 2007 and 2010 established measures, including the Under Secretary of Commerce role for the NIST director and Federal Technology Transfer and Partnerships toward sustaining and growing a healthy U.S. innovation ecosystem. From the beginning in 1980, our patent protections and the reliability of our intellectual property as a property right in the United States was a key part of the strength of the American innovation system.

This is still true today. And today we find ourselves at another turning point. Despite legislation, policy, much progress and impact, we continue to see barriers, bureaucracy, and lack of access. Key inventions, software, facilities that industry and entrepreneurs want sadly remain unavailable to create value in the U.S. economy.

A realignment of the federal partnering models with U.S. industry and universities is long overdue to ensure that the American taxpayer is reaping the greatest benefit from our science and technology investment. It is not an exaggeration to say that our response to these challenges will help shape our economic future and our national security.

You are part of shaping this future. Our distinguished keynote speakers will set the context for U.S. leadership and global commerce, for the president's management agenda, and for the cross-agency priorities and lab-to-market goal. We will have three panels with internationally recognized leaders sharing their perspectives and participating in the discussion.

During the morning, we'll take a 20-minute break for coffee and continue our conversations in the atrium through which you passed.

Now it is my distinct honor to introduce someone who is fully committed to enhancing the relationship between technology innovation and the American economy.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has more than 55 years of experience mastering the art of economic growth. He understands a lot about building companies and the strategic use of capital. He's a former chairman and chief strategy officer of W.L. Ross and Company, which became a powerhouse for Invesco. In these roles, he successfully restructured more than 400 billion in assets by investing in and turning around companies across industry sectors, from beverages to banking.

He has received many national and international honors. He is committed to building a stronger America. And a boss and a mentor, he has been personally very influential to me already. He asks all the right questions. Secretary Ross understands return on investment for global corporations and also the broad implication of the term “ROI” from federal R&D investment for America.

Please join me in welcoming Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Created June 14, 2018