Jobs and Innovation

– Dilemmas in the Middle of the Equity Crunch

CPTEC is a not for profit organization which was founded in 1995. It is a not for profit business incorporated with the US Department of Energy, and its mission is to foster “arts and research for energy efficiency”. Their website says the CPTEC’s mission is to “promote and apply advance technologies to reduce energy consumption and pollution, and to promote energy security and environmental responsibility.” Sounds like a government agency trying to sell you something. Let me tell you what CPTEC is not.

A: CPTEC is not a start-up. The term CPTEC is not a term coined by the Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation. The term was used by Cisco Institute senior fellow John Sullivan to describe the research and development activities of the company. I did contact him to ask about it and he told me, “CATTC is an informal organization under the auspices of the National Science Foundation that was formed to foster small technology transfer and development activities.” I asked him what he meant by start-up and he told me that when someone says startup, they mean that the company is only in the very early stages, not that it lacks any real potential to becoming a real business.

B: Creating jobs is what the Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation tries to do. It also says that “Innovation accelerators” is part of their mission. Does the company offer any such start-up enterprises? If so, how many and how long are they in effect? In a free market, the answer would be, well, we don’t really know because no one has asked them yet.

C: The organization may not have venture capital. However, it appears that they do have an entrepreneurial program, at least as described above. Is this another Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation spin-off? Maybe. If so, maybe there’s another problem.

D: There isn’t any indication that the Carnegie Mellon group ever considered starting their own industry body. However, I suppose that this is part of the problem. Start-ups can be difficult, costly, time-consuming, etc, not to mention the problems that many entrepreneurs may have to license their technology, etc. A problem with creating an industry around something, even if it works well within the overall goals of the Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation, does not exist in the context of a “vendor chain for innovative disruptive technologies.”

E: There was a quote from Henry Ford during World War II that he used, which says a lot. He said something to the effect that “relatively few people know how to build a car, but we know how to spend a whole lot of money buying one.” Is that an accurate statement, and if so, why does it apply to technology transfer and enterprise creation in general? Just as Henry Ford was ahead of his time, so too will you be ahead of your time, and in time if you use the right mix of approaches. You’ll find that the Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation needs to consider whether they want to use a vendor-based model, or a problem-solving approach working within an overall industry and goals framework.

F: Does the Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation really have a problem with applying the old-fashioned marketplace approach to solving these problems, as opposed to trying to solve them through innovation? The reason I ask this is that the marketplace has been very effective in providing solutions to innovation challenges. Perhaps, instead of spending millions upon millions of dollars on R&D, venture capitalists would invest that money into IP firms that could innovate and then provide commercial products and services at a much lower cost, thereby enhancing the lives of everyone. Is the Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation really worried about the “innovative” aspects of entrepreneurship, or do they want to make sure that entrepreneurs are using a toolbox of tools from government and academia to create jobs and income opportunities?

G: What about the argument that the old way of thinking about start-ups, and particularly Carnegie Mellon innovation, are outdated? In other words, that there are just too many “start-ups” and too many failures, that innovation simply doesn’t work anymore? Well, let me tell you that the “carnegie mellon innovation gap” has actually widened, and while entrepreneurship has always been about risk/reward, and the entrepreneurial mindset has always been important, we are seeing a lot more “start-ups” that are not as lucky as they were planned, and a lot more failures than successes. It’s hard to escape the fact that the world is changing, and as we enter the next decade, the world’s economy will need to evolve with it or risk going the way of the dinosaur.