U.S. Deputy Commerce Secretary Bruce Andrews Delivers Opening Remarks at the First-Ever Open for Innovation Event


Monday, August 3, 2015
Today, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews delivered the opening remarks at the Commerce Department’s first-ever Open for Innovation event. The event provided the opportunity for more than 80 startups to pitch their most innovative idea to solve a complex business challenge from one of eight established corporations. The corporations in attendance included American Cancer Society, BASF, Comcast, Microsoft, Samsung, Time, Inc., Thales, and Unilever.
During his remarks, Deputy Secretary Andrews highlighted several of the Department’s programs that help create the conditions for innovators and entrepreneurs to thrive. He also spoke about the Department’s role as “America’s Innovation Agency.”
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Good afternoon, everybody. It’s my pleasure to welcome you to the Department of Commerce for our Open for Innovation Day event. Our goal for this event is simple: we want to make it easier and more efficient for entrepreneurs like you to build and grow your own companies. This same principle also guides our day-to-day work on innovation here at the Department of Commerce.
While the government can’t create new companies, it has an important role to play as a catalyst – by developing ecosystems for start-ups and entrepreneurs to thrive and become the big businesses of tomorrow. We believe that the federal government has the responsibility to make sure entrepreneurs and innovators have what they need to turn a great idea into a successful business. That’s why the Department of Commerce is putting more tools in the hands of entrepreneurs like you and American businesses than ever before.
We are America’s Innovation Agency. There is no other federal department that is so singularly equipped to help businesses at every point of their life cycle, from concept to commercialization to marketing. We are constantly evolving to operate at the speed of business, and providing resources at each step of the business lifecycle. Before we get into the real meat of today’s programming, I want to tell you about a couple of our Department’s initiatives aimed at spurring innovation.
First, we make it easier for budding entrepreneurs to get off the ground through our Regional Innovation Strategies grants. Led by the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration, this initiative uses grants to spur innovation capacity-building activities in regions across the nation.
In Orlando, for example, the University of Central Florida is bringing together professors, students, and the private sector to create a center that will help inventors bring devices like innovative prosthetic arms for children to market. From urban areas like Atlanta and New Orleans to rural communities like Grand Forks, North Dakota, these grants will enable local innovators to design, develop, and sell new products.
Another way we support entrepreneurs is by keeping our nation at the leading edge of discovery. This is critical to both our economy and our global competitiveness. To that end, three years ago, our National Institute of Standards and Technology – or NIST – launched its Centers of Excellence Program. This initiative is designed to drive innovation through an interdisciplinary environment where researchers from NIST, academia, and industry collaborate on emerging areas in measurement science.
The first center, based in Chicago, is focused on designing and manufacturing of advanced materials. Other centers are focused on making communities more resilient to disasters and improving statistical analysis of forensic evidence. We are already seeing exciting progress in the discovery of new high-performance materials for applications such as lightweight composites for aerospace, and energy efficient electronics.
In addition to our programs aimed at providing entrepreneurs with the tools they need to get started, our Minority Business Development Agency works every day to promote inclusive innovation. The fact is, we need to access the talents and inventiveness of all our citizens. There are more than 5.8 million minority-owned businesses nationwide that contribute over $1 trillion to the U.S. economy. These businesses are a key part of the economy and provide our nation with innovative products, services, and solutions.
We are committed to ensuring that minority entrepreneurs have access to capital, contracts, and markets. We are pleased to have a number of our Minority Business Development Agency’s startup customers with us today. Would you please stand up?  Once an entrepreneur has a bold new idea, our Department is proud to issue the patents that protect their product through our U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
We recently studied the overall value of intellectual property to the U.S. economy, and found that industries that rely on intellectual property protections support 40 million American jobs and more than one-third of America’s Gross Domestic Product. Earlier this year, we issued our 9 millionth patent.  And the USPTO is developing new satellite offices in Detroit, Dallas, Denver, and Silicon Valley to provide better access to our services for entrepreneurs. 
Next, our new Startup Global program empowers early-stage companies to think globally and understand how to export their products. Experts from across our Department provide startups like you, with the technical assistance and know-how you need to export your goods and services. In recent months, we kicked off the Startup Global pilot program in Washington, D. C. and Nashville, and several more pilots are in the works around the country.
Finally, Secretary Pritzker chairs the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship, or PAGE, program, which was launched by President Obama in 2014. This initiative inspires the next generation of entrepreneurs by matching experienced mentors – like Tory Burch and Brian Chesky, the founder of AirBnB – with first-time entrepreneurs. Just last week, Secretary Pritzker brought four of our PAGE ambassadors with her to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kenya. While in Nairobi, the PAGE members mentored hundreds of entrepreneurs from around the world.
From the minute a groundbreaking idea gets sketched on the back of cocktail napkin, to the day a company goes public, our Department is there to help that business succeed. Today’s event is just another way we working to support some of our country’s most promising entrepreneurs.
We have a terrific program for you. In addition to Secretary Pritzker, who will be with us later this afternoon, you’re going to hear from Ian Kalin, our Chief Data Officer. Ian is working to unlock data for the next generation of business development and growth.
Julie Lenzer Kirk, director of our Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, will host a discussion on how corporations can partner with startups. Simply put, startups need access to capital and can provide innovative goods that many corporations may need. You will also see how this works firsthand during our SwitchPitch demonstration later this afternoon.
From providing patents that protect intellectual property, to helping minority-owned businesses thrive, to convening groups like all of you here today, Secretary Pritzker has made innovation a key pillar of our Department’s agenda. At the Department of Commerce, we are all in to support you, our nation’s startups and entrepreneurs – because we want innovation to remain one of America’s greatest assets and exports. With that, let me turn the program over to my friend and colleague Ian Kalin, our Chief Data Officer.

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