We Got a Bunch of Stimulus Money…So What?

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what to do with the information that we’re collecting on Recovery Act awards to industry cluster related activities. It’s certainly nice to know in general, but I’ve always said that we have to make sure that these dollars aren’t just a one-time windfall, but actually contribute to the long-term success of our regional economic development strategy. So I’ve started to think about the Recovery Act funds in three groups:

1) Stuff that’s done: I’m really happy that a lot of buildings and homes got energy retrofits, for example, but there’s not much to be done with that (it’s the competitive EECBG grant that would actually change the marketplace for future retrofits).

2) Stuff that’s being taken care of: That $88 million to Battelle for their smart grid demonstration project is going to be really useful, for example, but I’m pretty sure they’ve got that covered.

3) Stuff that needs attention: This is the part that I’ve been trying to identify.

I think that the big opportunity for #3 is in technology commercialization. We’ve gotten hundreds of millions of dollars in R&D funding, mostly in clean tech and life sciences. Which means that, if all goes well, in a few years we’re going to have a big burst of market ready innovations to deal with. It’s sort of like the baby boom of tech commercialization, with the part of amorous soldiers returning home being played by Recovery Act dollars and the part of selfish, drain on the system boomers (I kid because I love) being played by new technologies. It’s not that these innovations are any better than the other innovations already happening around the region, it’s that there are going to be more of them so we need to be prepared, lest the current commercialization system get overloaded and things fall through the cracks. Especially because our state is so great for entrepreneurship.

I’m not exactly sure what that looks like yet, other than to start to get the funding/VC side of the equation ready to go and the small business support network marshalled, but there are plenty of great commercialization folks out there to talk to. I’ll let you know what we come up with, and suggestions are welcome!

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