As an independent inventor, I find great frustration in developing great products which are met with skepticism and the reply "Who needs it?" Rather than wasting time inventing technologies with a questionable need or questionable available infrastructure (money) to support and develop the invention, why can't the efforts of our country's inventors be focused? If our patent system and the work of inventors really is the crown jewel of our economy, why can't we inventors get funding for needed innovations?
The SBIR program and others are a good start, but unfortunately the competition is fierce, some of the topics are questionable and funding is always in jeopardy due to budget cuts. How is an independent inventor going to focus his time to maximize value? What is the point of working on an individual solicitation if the government isn't really interested in the technology? Problems with the SBIR program and the others is that there is: 1) No sense of PRIORITY of the topics/ solicitations/ technologies 2) No sense of priority in funding 3) No guaranteed funding 4) A ton of paperwork, and 5) Bureaucratic expense and waste.
I am suggesting a prize for inventors to solve a specific technological problems. A National Innovation Prize, if you will. Something analogous to the Feynman, Lemelson and Nobel Prizes, sponsored by the US Government, but with a twist: a "shopping" list of SPECIFIC problems to be solved. Currently, there is no sense of urgency to our country's technology needs. Sure, the volume after volume of SBIR, ATP and STTC solicitations offer areas of interest, BUT THERE IS NO SENSE OF PRIORITY.
The actual implementation would be so easy! Many topics could be lifted right from the existing goals of programs such as PNGV, SBIR, ATP, etc... Federal agencies or corporations could nominate inventions, improvements and needed technologies. Let NIST or MIT pick the problems, questions and order them. This list of national technological priorities of the National Innovation Prize could be posted right on the existing page of the NTTC (National Technology Transfer Center) web site!
For the paltry sum of $11,400,000 the United States government could fund 100 prizes to spur on innovation. If the program worked, they could even expand it. I would propose:
>1 GRAND PRIZE OF $500,000
>>10 First Prizes of $200,000 each
>>>89 Second Prizes of $100,000 each
There would be no red tape. If the technology solves the listed problem and conforms to the program guidelines, the inventor gets the prize. PERIOD. What a way to spur on innovation! What a way to motivate the inventors! If inventors have a specific goal, and they know that there is light (money) at the end of the tunnel, watch them go!
Right now many inventors say "why bother." They invent something remarkable and then have to browbeat people. Few will listen to their presentation and few phone calls get returned to the inventor. To get federal backing presently, an inventor has to spend hour upon hour week upon week month upon month filling out paperwork for questionable grants/ contracts, making phone calls and/or writing letters. Why undertake the risk of technology development, a risky venture in itself, when you know that even if you ARE successful in solving the technological problem, you won't get funding?
The above National Innovation Prize program would do wonders for our economy and our country's sense of mission. Problem is, it makes too much sense for it ever to be implemented in Washington, DC.
©10/1996 by the authorHarold A. Meyer, III, 33, is Chairman of The Hook Appropriate Technology, a performance based licensing, marketing and new product development company. Meyer is also President of the non-profit group, THE INNOVATORS Guild of Danbury, CT. He can be reached at: The Hook Appropriate Technology, 52 Bank Street, Suite A, New Milford, CT, 06776-2706 USA. VOICE: 800-HOOK-VOX, EMAIL: email@example.com, WEB: www.thehooktek.com
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