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Future of Urban Innovation: Startups Summit

June 12, 2015

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

People sitting in chairs on a stage that appear to be having some sort of panel discussion.

Future of Urban Innovation: Startups Summit

On June 9, the U.S. Department of Commerce, in partnership with Columbia University, hosted the Future of Urban Innovation: Startups summit in New York City, to discuss urban innovation and how government, academia, and the private sector can work together to help startups and spur economic growth. The summit was part of ongoing efforts, by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), to provide information and resources to innovators and entrepreneurs in the region.

Urban innovation is a key driver of economic growth for the U.S., with tech-based entrepreneurs helping to develop the domestic manufacturing base and the urban supply chain. Urban innovation also spurs the formation of new businesses with high paying jobs, and innovative companies that export their goods contribute to America’s competitiveness in the global marketplace.

In her remarks, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker discussed the advantages cities offer entrepreneurs looking to start a business, including leading research universities; start-up incubators; financial institutions; advertising and marketing firms; the talent pool to develop new products; and a concentrated customer base. She issued a call-to-action for higher education institutions, the private sector, local governments, and other economic development stakeholders to invest in their urban innovation ecosystems. “Providing the tools for researchers and entrepreneurs to turn their discoveries into commercially viable products – whether in cities or any other setting – is a key priority for the Department of Commerce and the Obama administration,” Pritzker said. Pritzker gave examples of agencies that are supporting these goals, including the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Economic Development Administration (EDA), and the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA).

To utilize these resources, Secretary Pritzker emphasized the importance of strong, cross-sector partnerships to support businesses as they move out of the research and development phase to tackling the challenges of starting and growing a company. She also outlined the wide variety of ways that the Department of Commerce invests in urban centers across America, facilitates groundbreaking research in diverse fields, and collaborates with various partners to take new ideas from the lab to market.

Through its issuance of strong patents and protection of intellectual property, the USPTO plays a key part in urban innovation efforts by promoting inventive discovery. The strength and vitality of the U.S. economy depends directly on effective mechanisms that protect new ideas and investments in innovation and creativity. The continued demand for patents and trademarks underscores the ingenuity of American inventors and entrepreneurs, and the USPTO is at the cutting edge of the nation’s technological progress and achievement.

“In order to be at the forefront of fostering innovation through intellectual property rights, we are not just operating from a distance, but instead need to be present where innovation happens,” said USPTO Director Michelle K. Lee at the summit. In the last three years, the USPTO has stood up four new regional offices – DetroitDenverDallas, and the Silicon Valley – designed to serve innovative communities on a more regional basis. In addition, where the USPTO does not have a permanent presence, they are partnering with local organizations, such as Cornell Tech at their technology campus in New York City. These partnerships are a force multiplier in order to increase USPTO’s reach to all innovators.

In a panel of intellectual property (IP) experts during the summit, Director Lee discussed IP strategies for technology entrepreneurs. Topics included best practices and common pitfalls relating to start-up patent strategies, tips for working with attorneys, insights into the role of IP for emerging companies, and the possible impact of pending patent reform efforts being considered in Washington. During a session on federal support for entrepreneurs, speakers from the MBDA, EDA, and the Small Business Administration (SBA) discussed opportunities for companies to receive grants, funding, and other assistance. Throughout the summit, there were startup pitches by entrepreneurs as well as networking events.

The Department of Commerce is committed to investing in urban centers across America, facilitating groundbreaking research in diverse fields, and collaborating with various partners to take new ideas from the lab to market.

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