Wednesday, January 7, 2009

2009, a new year for innovation

We are at a critical juncture for our country. If we are to lead the global economy, improve the quality of life for all Americans and strengthen our national security, we need to invest in science and technology. It really is shocking to me, that for all its impact on everyday life, the technology industry has had insufficient clout in Washington and throughout the United States. We are challenged by the economy; education; security; health care and government management, and now all of this is converging with the seating of a new Congress and the inauguration of a President. It’s time to have your voice heard (Yes, that means you -- the tech exec reading this blog!)

The good news is, President-elect Obama appreciates the critical role innovation will play in addressing those challenges.
(As and aside, I would encourage everyone to (re)read Obama's comprehensive Science & Technology Policy (pdf), in which he promised to double the federal investment in basic research and address the “grand challenges” of the 21st century.) And as most of us geeks know, 61 Nobel laureates in science publically endorsed Obama’s technology & science initiatives, which to date, this is the highest number of Nobel laureates ever to endorse one candidate in particular.

With Obama set to argue for urgent, massive government spending, and what is likely to be a $1.2-trillion deficit, lobbyists are saying that any stimulus should be directed at technology firms. A report just released by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation says that spending $30 billion in taxpayers' money in 2009 on broadband infrastructure, health IT, and electric grid technologies could create or save approximately 949,000 U.S. jobs. More than half of those jobs, the report claims, would be in small businesses.
(see article)

I have personally been a long-time proponent of “grassroots to global” initiatives and commend the leadership of Chris Hansen, AeA President & Chief Executive Officer, alongside Phillip J. Bond, ITAA President, in merging the two trade associations’ memberships and programs. The new entity will be known as the Technology Association of America.

The merger, which closed on January 1st, will give rise to a stronger voice for the technology industry by bringing together the largest number of tech companies though out the United States in a united federal lobbying operation. The new organization, representing 1500+ member companies, will advocate on technology issues in Washington and state capitals across the country and provide programs in every industry center.

“With the onset of a new year, we are faced with many more obstacles and opportunities,” said AeA Chariman Peter J. Bondi. “The consolidation of these two great associations offers the technology industry a strong voice on Capitol Hill and extends the new administration a united partner to foster innovation and address the challenges ahead.”
(see more)

The association will offer policy leadership, networking, business development, standards development, market forecasting, research and a robust suite of affinity offerings and member services. In addition, an exclusive membership in the World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA) – a network of 69 technology associations in countries around the world – and offices in Beijing and Brussels, will round out The Technology Association of America’s robust, grass roots-to-global capability for the technology industry at large.
(learn more about WITSA

So as President-elect Barack Obama tackles some of the most daunting challenges in recent history, I hope the technology community makes a deeper commitment in having their voices heard. Get involved. Be part of the Technology Association of America.

New Year Resolutions for Techies

posted by Winny Ho

AeA LA Council
Executive Committee
2009 Marketing Chair

Winny Ho recently accepted the position of Executive Committee Marketing Chair for the AeA Los Angeles Council. In this capacity, she will be coordinating outreach and programming in conjunction with Lisa Leight who is in her 2nd term of the Executive Committee Membership Chair.

She asked that I post the below entry. Thanks Winny! (Follow Winny on Twitter)

Raise your hand if you've made a New Year’s Resolutions this year. Got your hand up? (Use the other one to pat yourself on the back... Hokey? Cheesy? Tony Robbins-esque? Yes, all of the above.)

It’s a distinctly human endeavor to try to better oneself. If you ask anyone else in the animal kingdom – your dog, cat, or parakeet – they probably think they are fine just the way they are. You will find only humans at those night Spanish language classes, buying exercise equipment from infomercials, and checking themselves into rehab.

Let’s celebrate the process of trying to be better. We may not succeed at every attempt to lose the last 5 lbs or eat more vegetables, but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying. It’s hard to change…almost impossible. But it can be done. Look at Oprah: she’s successfully lost and kept off 80 lbs…oops, scratch that example.

I hope I fare better in keeping my New Year’s Resolution, which is to face my heart-stopping fear of public speaking. Specifically, I resolve to attend at least two Toastmasters meetings every month. Wish me luck; I will need all the good thoughts you can send my way when I’m sweating bullets right before my first extemporaneous speech.

Think about what fear you and your company could conquer in 2009. Companies have resolutions too, but they go by fancier names – objectives, business plans, metrics, scorecarding, etc. What will you do differently in 2009 to improve your company, team, or career? Are you willing to step out of your comfort zone of doing things the same old way? Change is not for the faint of heart. Living outside your comfort zone is scary. If you are brave enough to take on behavioral change (that’s psychology-speak for a resolution), get comfortable with the discomfort that comes with doing something new.

If you’re ready to jump onto the resolution bandwagon, let us introduce you to a few new ideas for improving your business in 2009. The AeA will be offering up a stimulating and provocative set of programs next year to push you out of your comfort zone – come ready to discover new perspectives, start a dialogue, and develop new skills. The big ideas are all around you and they may already be inside your head; you just have to be ready to see them and take action. Let the AeA LA Council help your business make and keep its resolutions in ‘09. But if you decide to buy that gym membership – sorry, we can’t help you there.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Web 2.0 & eHealth

eHealth is an emerging field in the intersection of medical informatics, public health and business. The market was recently forecasted to grow from $7.5-billion in 2008 to $11.3 billion in 2013. While politicians have made significant announcements of their support of this innovation, their commitment needs to translate into pragmatic deliverables.

Understanding that we could save billions of dollars by transmitting all Medicare prescriptions electronically is one thing, implementing it is another. Across the globe, politicians are concerned about high security, accuracy and privacy demands. Yes, there is a need for standardization of eHealth practices, but these are not insurmountable. Consider another industry with similar pressures that has successfully overcome these challenges -- finance and banking. The banking system network, including regional boundaries & security controls, is a great example of what can be done when private enterprise understands a need.

The term, eHealth, characterizes not only a technical development, but also a state-of-the-mind, a way of thinking, an attitude, and a commitment for networked, global thinking, to improve health care logically, regionally, and worldwide by using information and communication technology. (Source: G. Eysenback for the Journal of Medical Internet Research)

“The high tech industry is a strong supporter of eHealth initiatives such as ePrescribing that lower healthcare costs and improve the safety and delivery of care,” said Matthew Kazmierczak, Vice President, Research and Industry Analysis, AeA. “Now we need to ensure that policymakers at the state level help promote ePerscribing and that medical practices across the country embrace the technology.”

As more IT vendors comply with government regulation, the systems integrate better and customers and clients receive more efficient products. eHealth developments are improving the right of access to quality healthcare across the globe – regardless of the patient’s personal condition or geographic location.

The AeA just released its third Competitiveness Series report endorsing eHealth, arguing that it will lower costs and enhance the safety, reliability, convenience, and delivery of healthcare. The report, entitled eHealth 301: Electronic Prescriptions, builds on two earlier reports analyzing electronic medical records and telemedicine.

As a result of these findings, the AeA anticipates that healthcare will continue to surface as a public policy issue, driven not only by the large number of people uninsured, but also by businesses whose healthcare costs continue to rise.

The AeA currently has 20 lobbyists working in top technology states, providing intelligence about legislation, and the capability to communicate with key legislators. The AeA is actively supporting, promoting and impacting legislation to spur the deployment of Health IT initiatives – such as electronic medical records – to reduce costs, improve quality and save lives. Specifically, the AeA wants to see legislation that would:

  • Stimulate the deployment of universal broadband by promoting municipal broadband initiatives and by targeting incentives toward rural areas that currently are without broadband access;

  • Support the Federal Communication Commission’s plan to invest in broadband infrastructure to enable telemedicine in rural and impoverished areas;

  • Increase funding for the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth within the Department of Health and Human Services;

  • Enact financial incentives to help small- and medium-sized healthcare providers implement EMR and telemedicine systems, including grants, loans, and tax credits for the initial investment in the necessary equipment, software, training, and support;

  • Adjust the reimbursement rates for Medicaid and Medicare to include costs associated with EMRs and telemedicine;

  • Encourage states to enact cross-licensing agreements that permit medical practitioners to provide services across state lines; and

  • Leverage federal and state purchasing power to push for widespread adoption and utilization of EMRs and telemedicine using nationwide interoperable standards.

All installments of the AeA Competitiveness Series can be downloaded for free at:

We’ve already seen how Web 2.0 technologies have transformed the ways people and businesses organize themselves and interact with each other. Once we put these technologies to work in health care – and address the need for added privacy and security protections that health care information requires -- we will be able to improve the quality, safety, and affordability of care in as many ways as our imaginations will allow.

Monday, July 7, 2008

INNOVATION - A Scientist's Perspective

Approximately 50 executives from the worlds of technology & venture capital piled into the dining hall on June 30th to listen to Dr. Mark Drapeau speak about "innovation" and its sister topic, "STEM education."

With Dr. Drapeau's permission, the AeA Los Angeles Council is furnishing this insightful speech below:

I'm sure that all of you understand that what I'm going to talk about today is my own informed opinion, and not the official position nor policy of the U.S. government. And with that disclaimer, I want to tell you – that I really hate working in Washington, DC.

Washington is run by a CEO reporting to a 535-member Board of Directors. The worker bees of the city are an army of well-meaning 25 year olds often with little or no subject-matter expertise. The government is a Byzantine, reactive organization plagued by its self-imposed hierarchy. And because the federal government is itself not innovative, it may therefore not be very good at understanding the topic of innovation, or guiding it.

Innovation – and its sister topic, STEM education, is a topic that easily falls through the cracks. The Defense Department certainly innovated, but does relatively little to educate children in STEM topics; nor perhaps should it. The National Science Foundation mainly funds professors to do research. The National Institutes of Health in total represent effectively the largest teaching hospital in the country; their research is innovative, but little trickles down to children in their community. And what is the Department of Education doing? Honestly, I never hear a thing about them.

Is there a knowledge gap within the federal government about how innovation really happens? Maybe. But this is everyone's fault, in some sense. Innovation in the end is about creating products, but largely the federal government doesn't make products; it buys them. The military-industrial complex of which I am a part is a great example of this. So it may be fair to posit that after most of the research and discovery happens, people in the government wonder why it takes so long – and costs so much – to get a prototype or a finished product.

My colleague at National Defense University, Dr. Tim Coffey, head of the Naval Research Laboratory for many years, called these two parts of discovery the "prospecting" and "mining" phases in a 2005 paper (, where prospecting is largely the responsibility of the government and mining that of industry. Even the Defense Department's primary research arm, DARPA – the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – can seem at times oblivious to this so-called "Valley of Death" between the prospecting and mining phases. Dr. Coffey suggests that we have perhaps gotten so caught up in the last 30 years of mining – including such inventions as RADAR, cell phones, and DNA fingerprinting – that we've forgotten about the prospecting for these things that happened in the 1950's and 60's. This 15-20 year prospecting, as a general rule, requires a long-term investment strategy by the government.

As I earlier suggested, part of the problem is due to the organization of Washington, DC, right down to fiscal years and annual budgets. A colleague working at the National Science Foundation said to me, "The lag time between fundamental idea and marketable product is usually longer than policymakers are willing to consider." While this is not slated to change anytime soon, one possible way to bridge this gap is through federal venture capital. Government-owned venture capital funds, like the intelligence community's In-Q-Tel ( or the USDA's former AARC may be a great hybrid strategy (government-owned, private appearance).

The official federal government strategy regarding innovation and STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education comes from two places. One, the Executive Office of the President (EOP) has an office called the Office of Science and Technology Policy, or OSTP, which heads up the American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) (

Second, Congress has passed the related America COMPETES Act of 2007, where COMPETES is (believe it or not) an acronym for Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science. The ACI concentrates on two things: One, education, and two, doubling basic research in the physical sciences. It proposes to strengthen science education and research, improve technological expertise, attract the world's best and brightest, and provide 21st century job training.

Doubling basic research in the physical sciences is largely an NSF, Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, and Department of Commerce (DOC) National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) matter. In fiscal year 2009 (FY09) the proposed effort will amount to a roughly 15% increase of $12 billion.

While innovation is indeed listed as a top priority of OSTP, this "investment in innovation-enabling research" will not necessarily help STEM education, nor do anything to inspire America's youth. What it will definitely do is fill the coffers of U.S. academic scientists, which is necessary to a point, of course. But I can say firmly that in my experience these professors care very little about pre-college STEM education, about capturing young children's minds with the excitement and wonderment of science and the natural world. However, we might consider whether some of this tremendous amount of money could be better spent.

Other parts of the ACI touch on this. One, "Math Now and Advanced Placement" involves better teacher training. Two, an "Adjunct Teacher Corps" proposes 30,000 new STEM teachers in America over eight years (about 75/state/year, or very roughly one per city). Three, "Attract the Best and Brightest" aims to reform immigration and maintain national security.

To me, this list seems incomplete and out of proportion with the relatively larger increase in research spending. In any case, right now (generally) Congress is debating funding for programs authorized in the COMPETES Act. There is a huge difference between authorization and appropriation in Washington (among other things, this leads to the notion of an "unfunded mandate"). You can affect this process.

One example I found was H.R. 4151 introduced by Rep. Sylvester Reyes (D-TX), which is the STEM Promotion Act of 2007. It proposed to fund advertising to encourage young Americans to enter the science and technology workforce. It was referred to the Labor/Education Committee and was there left for dead. I don't pretend to know everything there is to know about the workings of Congress, and perhaps the key points of this bill got folded into another one. But the point is that these are the kinds of bills that would greatly benefit folks like you who work in the high-tech industry.

This year on August 18-19, there will be a summit( at Oak Ridge in Tennessee about the ACI run by OSTP. The theme of the summit will be, "Science, Technology, and American Competitiveness: Progress and Direction Forward" (which seems so vague as to hardly be a theme). In general this will be a high-level meeting with numerous member of Congress and the Secretary of Education among the attendees.

About half the summit will be spent on STEM education:

  1. Women and minorities in STEM education – review of models of attracting and policy proposals
  2. K-12; Sparking student interest + teacher training – Gaps between states, races, and socioeconomic status; new models? New ideas?
  3. STEM post-secondary education – Are US universities graduating the right mix of skills and degrees in S&E?

What's wrong with this? In my opinion, more emphasis should be placed on efforts that get children excited about science at an early age. Frankly, the military and NASA have many "cool things" that can attract children to related careers, but there is very little publicity about this. But there are indeed encouraging government programs about STEM education "down in the trenches" if you will.

On my plane flight from Washington, DC to California, I sat next to a teacher from northern Virginia who had successfully applied to make her school one of about 150 NASA Explorer Schools (nationally). This is a great three-year plan that provides funds to allow schools to purchase research tools, interact with NASA (including a trip to Houston), and provide advanced training for teachers. The Department of Defense has similar programs; in fact, one of the offices I interviewed with when I came to Washington runs exactly these kinds of programs.

One very encouraging note these organizations are trying to use "Web 2.0" and "new media" to connect with audiences. Press conferences are given and military recruiting is done in virtual, online worlds. Just yesterday, I had a great talk with a Los Angeles-based computer game designer who has worked with the U.S. Army, for example. I hope that these trends carry over into STEM education.

An interesting anecdote about use of Web 2.0 social software tools involves the NASA Phoenix Mars Lander – which is Twittering live from Mars, so to speak. More people "follow" what the Phoenix says than almost anyone else on the system – currently over 26,000. For those of you not familiar with Twitter, it's like a cross between Instant Messaging and Blogging >>> or Micro-blogging. There are now even two Congressmen doing this: Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Rep. John Culberson (R-TX). Related to this, one of my personal initiatives at the Center for Technology and National Security Policy (CTNSP) is called Social Software for Security, or S3.

(Update: Now the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter – destined for the moon and still being constructed at NASA Goddard Space Center, is also Twittering in the first person @LRO_NASA. There are numerous other examples.)

Getting back to innovation, competitiveness, and STEM education, there is a recent report out of the prestigious Brookings Institution in Washington that puts forth the idea of a National Innovation Foundation, or NIF. This NIF would in theory do for innovation what the NSF did for science and engineering research. The report suggests that an NIF would boost productivity, innovation, and growth. But what is perhaps disappointing about this well-intended proposal is that is focuses on universities, grants, and companies, with no serious mention of STEM education or the workforce ( In my opinion, as far as you the audience are concerned, this is a poor "Blueprint for American Prosperity".

Innovation is the heart of national competitiveness. But people in Washington can barely define what it is. And in many cases it is better to fight over something than get it off the table. But you have to be involved as well. You have to be in it to win it, as they say. Lobby your Congress and your President for more ways to influence STEM education in America. Attend OSTP's upcoming August summit at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Talk to people like me, scientists working on your behalf in Washington. Whether you fight for traditional things like school funding, or unconventional ideas like incorporating STEM knowledge into television and movies, business leaders like you can make a difference. Your difference can be local, or national – and both are important. Luckily you live in one of the most wonderful and progressive states in the country, California.

Thank you for your attention, and for allowing me to speak to you today.

About Dr. Mark Drapeau:

Dr. Drapeau is a fellow at the Department of Defense with expertise in the following:
  1. biotech influencing future militaries
  2. biology models/metaphors to defense problems
  3. strategic connections between the DoD and the interactive media/social networking community to benefit humanitarian operations.

Dr. Drapeau's broad background in life sciences helps with analysis of defense strategy. He has published research on many topics including genomics, neuroscience, ecology, and animal behavior. He has also penned many opinion/commentary articles on scientific research, science policy, and the intersection between life sciences and national security.

After the completion of his fellowship in September 2008, Dr. Drapeau plans to land a challenging strategy position in the business world (consulting, finance), drawing on his quantitative and technical skills as a scientist, his recent work as a defense strategist, and excellent communication skills.

Dr. Drapeau can be contacted at

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Are we creating a vibrant future for California?

“California is the birthplace of the information technology revolution and the home of the companies that are creating the future course of our information rich society. Great California companies like Google, Hewlett Packard, Apple, Sun Microsystems and hundreds more like them are transforming the way people live, work and communicate.
They are creating a vibrant future for California.”

(excerpt from a Teri Takai speech, 2008)

California -- if it broke off from the United States and became its own country, would be the "sixth-largest economy" in the world, according to an oft-repeated phrase. Not true so much anymore, but from a standpoint of innovation in the technology sector, California continues to flourish.

Our state fosters a climate for progressive, innovative businesses that create jobs, stimulate our state's economy and lead the way for a better, cleaner and healthier world. While the growth of Web 2.0 technology companies have been emerging at a rapid pace, there are three other sectors worth mentioning:

Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger was quoted saying, “California’s economy stands to greatly benefit from the wave of new businesses and jobs created by the emerging technologies and different approaches to fighting climate change.” The state’s emphasis on promoting cleantech has opened a wide array of opportunities for companies with the technical expertise to tackle the challenges of “going green,” and interest in cleantech by venture capitalists continues to grow as a result.

The AeA Los Angeles Council is proud to announce a FREE EVENT on July 11th, 2008, to provide our local technology community with the opportunity to meet the newly-appointed State of California Cabinet-level Chief Information Officer (CIO), Teresa (Teri) Takai. (Click to register)

Ms. Taki was appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on December 6, 2007. This position was created by a bill sponsored by AeA after feedback by technologists that they did not have enough access to work with the State of California.

California's state government is one of the largest potential purchasers of technology in the world. Currently California has nearly 120 projects under development valued at $6.8 billion dollars over 11 years. These projects span a wide variety of technology activities including improving service delivery, providing customer services over the Internet, meeting Federal requirements for services, maintaining and improving our infrastructure, and reengineering California’s administrative functions to increase efficiencies in government operations and avoid the high costs of redundant systems. AeA members have for years sought a California Chief Information Officer (CIO) with real statutory, enterprise-wide authority to facilitate and promote technology solutions, bring about a unified technology program throughout state agencies, and provide accountability for the direction of technology.
"I appreciate AeA welcoming me,” said Ms. Takai. “I am looking forward to working with AeA to advance the business of technology in California. I share Governor Schwarzenegger's commitment to making state government more accessible to Californians through information technology, and I will work closely with the Governor, the legislature and other California state officials to create more efficiency and accessibility in state government."

"AeA pursued this legislation because our members believe an empowered State CIO will provide consistency in technological solutions and procurements," said Roxanne Gould, Senior Vice President, California Public & Legislative Affairs. “Such a CIO will be able to drive the purchase of the enterprise-wide applications essential for improving government performance, reducing fraud, and leveraging existing programs to better serve the citizens of California, all the while promoting technology as an essential means to almost every public policy end."

Other speakers include:
> Will Semmes (Chief Deputy Director, DGS)
> P.K. Agarwal (Director of Technology Services)
> Adrian Farley (Deputy Director of Procurement, DGS)
Ms. Takai has served as director of the Michigan Department of Information Technology (MDIT) since 2003, where she also served as the state's chief information officer. In this position, she has restructured and consolidated Michigan's resources by merging the state's information technology into one centralized department to service 19 agencies and over 1,700 employees.
Additionally, during her tenure at the MDIT, Takai has led the state to being ranked number one four years in a row in digital government by the Center for Digital Government. Prior to going into state service, Ms. Takai worked for the Ford Motor Company for 30 years, where she led the development of the company's information technology strategic plan. Takai also held positions in technology at EDS and Federal-Mogul Corp.
She is past president of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers and currently serves as practitioner chair of the Harvard Policy Group on Network-Enabled Services and Government. Ms. Takai was named "Public Official of the Year" by Governing magazine in 2005.

Friday, June 27, 2008

U.S. technology industry in jeopardy?

On June 24th, the AeA released their annual Cyberstates report, with a not-so-subtle warning. The AeA report cautions that if changes are not made in the U.S.’s education system and immigration policies, the supply of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) workers will continue to decrease, jeopardizing the technology industry in the United States.

The complexity and speed by which new technology is being introduced puts the United States in a position of leadership, but our competitive slide is a serious issue. We’re feeding off past success rather than investing in our future. Many high tech master’s degree programs are populated predominantly by foreign nationals. We either have to (i) streamline the visa process to encourage the next workforce to stay in the U.S. after graduation; or (ii) take the lead and create programs that provide quality education in primary & secondary schools.

AeA President & CEO Christopher Hansen says that the technology industry is on its way back to employment levels enjoyed in the "pre-bubble" levels of the late 1990's. And California has been ranked #1 in terms of quantity of workers, job gains and wages. The growth is outstanding, but the lack of talent is a problem we can’t ignore.

As a member of the technology community, I would like to personally encourage you to consider joining the AeA on Monday, June 30th for a day of golf in support of STEM education and other important AeA initiatives.

Golf For A Better Tomorrow, KEYNOTE: Dr. Mark Drapeau (Scientist) will address the state of US global competitiveness, how we measure up against the 30-top world economies and new innovations in converging technologies of the future -- cognition, biotechnology, nanotechnology and IT.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Corporate Social Responsibility

I was invited to speak to an elite Los Angeles group of high powered CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers) about innovation and corporate social responsibility. Our discussion included case study examples to answer the following questions:

  • What are the different roles of innovation?
  • Does being ethical pay?
  • When do consumers reward a socially responsible company?
  • When does a great CSR initiative go bad?
  • Start-ups, SMEs, NGOs, Transnationals -- when to collaborate & when to walk away?
  • How to successfully share innovation stories?
  • How to leverage social media for social awareness?
  • What not to do in the "groundswell" (thanks Forrester!)