Innovation on the Horizon

I had the pleasure of attending last week’s “State of Innovation in America” panel. To sum it up in one phrase: “So much brainpower in one room!”

This brainpower was fueled by former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, venture capitalist Pete McNerney, Ecolab CEO Doug Baker,  and Art Rolnick, previously with the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. This group of thought-provoking panelists, moderated by our very own Lynn Casey, touched on topics of education, monetary policy, government regulation, Congressional gridlock and business taxation. The tone of conversation ebbed and flowed from serious to humorous – all the while debating what the U.S. should keep and what must change in order to advance the innovation and entrepreneurial agenda.

State of Innovation in America

Hosted by The Collaborative, an organization that brings together leaders of established and emerging companies, politicians, funders and other thought leaders, this particular session had a heavy-hitter lineup that left the audience wanting more as time ran out. As a matter of fact, Lynn opted to let the strong and unvarnished opinions keep coming, versus opening it up to the audience for Q&A.

Here’s a quick look at the highlights from the discussion:

Innovation is a “Stew.”

At least, this is the metaphor Tim Pawlenty used to characterize it, saying it’s comprised of many elements coming together, including STEM experience, training, education and capital. The key ingredient, according to Tim, for making the most delicious stew? The corporate tax rate must be competitive.

Venture Capitalists Exist Due to Innovation.

Pete McNerney said that while this is true, a venture capitalist’s job is to analyze early stage companies, and that task is difficult when there is not a predictable policy environment.

Growth Requires Innovation.

According to Doug Baker, companies must grow or shrink, and to grow requires innovation across the company – not solely in R&D and marketing – but everywhere.

U.S. Innovation is On the Horizon.

Although the economy is slow to recover, Art Rolnick is optimistic because of a) China whose economy is creating worldwide demand and increased opportunity for the U.S.; b) technology advances; and c) competitive open trade, which will drive innovation.

Suffice it to say, the kind of discussion that was had at the “State of Innovation in America” panel is the kind of insightful discussion we need to not only have, but act on, so the U.S. can continue to be a global model of innovation.

What do you think of the panelists’ remarks? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

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