Commerce advisory committee urges government to boost startup access to talent, funding

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Congress should fully fund the Economic Development Administration’s regional technology and innovation hubs program to help the U.S. tech sector maintain its global leadership, according to the committee.

The United States must work to maintain its technological advantage over global adversaries by emboldening its entrepreneurial community with streamlined access to funding, talent and needed resources, according to a federal advisory committee.

In a report released on Feb. 8, the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship — or NACIE — praised the U.S. tech sector’s leadership but warned that officials cannot sit on their laurels and “must act now to remove the obstacles faced by both fledgling and mature companies to keep fostering game-changing innovations.”

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo tasked the committee — whose membership includes chief executives, academics, venture capitalists and other private sector representatives — with crafting recommendations that would further embolden the domestic development of advanced technologies. 

The NACIE report “identified three critical areas for improving and assisting American entrepreneurship,” which included addressing changes in the nation’s innovation landscape; helping startups and early-stage firms acquire capital; and improving companies’ access to top-tier talent. 

To address these barriers to further startup activity, the report outlined 10 policy recommendations for federal officials and lawmakers to implement that the committee said “would collectively help ensure America’s continued global entrepreneurial leadership in developing and commercializing advanced technologies.”

The report’s leading recommendation called for the creation of a national innovation council to “champion innovation and entrepreneurship across the country and coordinate relevant federal government activities.” 

This new entity, NACIE wrote, would be chaired by the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and would convene at least twice a year. It would be responsible “for overseeing the coordination and implementation of the recommendations included in a bi-annual national entrepreneurship strategy, as well as other identified national innovation and entrepreneurship priorities.”

NACIE is charged with developing a national entrepreneurship strategy “that strengthens America’s ability to compete and win as the world’s leading startup nation and as the world’s leading innovator in critical emerging technologies.”

The report also recommended, in part, that officials work to expand federal investments in research and development; create a virtual national innovation accelerator network to “empower inclusive entrepreneurship across all aspects of society;’” provide incentives for capital investments and “intellectual property commercialization;” and provide assistance to new entrepreneurs and efforts to diversify the tech sector.

Raimondo said in a statement that the report and recommendations “provide a roadmap to help ensure America remains a global leader by expanding research and development, increasing access to capital and fueling inclusive business growth across the country.”

To enhance funding opportunities for existing tech firms and nascent companies, the report also recommended that lawmakers allocate an additional $9.5 billion to the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s regional technology and innovation hubs program. The Biden administration designated 31 initial tech hubs across the U.S. in October 2023 as part of the program’s effort to drive regional job growth and innovation.

The Economic Development Administration noted in a Feb. 8 press release that the 2022 CHIPS and Science Act set aside $10 billion to fund the tech hubs program for five years, but that “Congress has only appropriated $500 million — the first five percent — which enabled the 2023 launch of the program.”

Alejandra Castillo — assistant secretary of Commerce for economic development and a NACIE co-chair — said that fully funding the tech hub program “will help execute and complement many of NACIE’s recommendations.”