Daniel Gorfine
Adjunct Fellow; Vice President, External Affairs and Associate General Counsel, OnDeck
Capital Access and Capital Markets and Demographics and FinTech and Global Economy and Public Policy
Daniel Gorfine is an adjunct fellow at the Milken Institute and vice president, external affairs and associate general counsel at OnDeck, a technology-based company focused on transforming small business lending.
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How the ideas economy is fueling the global economy … and how it could be doing much more
By: Daniel Gorfine
March 29, 2012
The Milken Institute and Google recently hosted Aneesh Chopra, former assistant to the President and our nation's first chief technology officer, and The Economist's Vijay Vaitheeswaran, senior correspondent and author of the new book, "Need, Speed, and Greed," for a discussion on the current state and future of innovation. Moderated by CNBC contributor and former White House Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto, the conversation provided valuable insights into a range of topics, including the proper role of government and the relationship between innovation and job creation.

• Mr. Vaitheeswaran noted that innovation is not necessarily defined as invention, but rather as fresh thinking that creates value. In promoting innovation, he stressed the importance of harnessing greed for good and correcting fundamentally misaligned incentives in the market place -- for example, the government subsidization of fossil fuels, which impedes the development of green technologies.

• Mr. Chopra suggested that the government can promote innovation and market dynamism by eliminating regulatory barriers and pursuing well-crafted initiatives. More specifically, he said the government should support innovation in three specific ways: investing in infrastructure, including for transmitting data; creating rules and regulations that promote economic growth, innovation, and entrepreneurship; and promoting open innovation initiatives that can increase productivity and efficiency in laggard industries, including health, energy, and education. He also argued that the government should serve as "impatient convener," a term referring to the government's facilitation of private sector collaboration through enhancing open and standardized access to data.

• Mr. Vaitheeswaran expressed some concern with an over-reliance on government involvement in the innovation space and emphasized both the importance of private-sector-driven advances as well as the necessity of creative destruction in the economy. He added that, while the government may properly serve as an economic enabler, the fundamental essence of innovation should come from the bottom up.

• As for the government's direct investment role, Mr. Chopra compared the Energy Department's Loan Guarantee program, a measure inherited by the Obama administration and notoriously linked with the Solyndra debacle, to the Health I.T. Program, which began soon after the President took office. Mr. Chopra noted that, instead of picking industry winners, the government can remain effective in promoting the private sector by creating meaningful standards. For example, the Health I.T. program introduced certain information benchmarks that resulted in the emergence of hundreds of new vendors and an increase in health IT investment by 46%. Mr. Vaitheeswaran emphasized that government should focus R&D investment on early-stage innovation and on rewarding innovators who work on socially important problems.

• On the topic of education, the panelists discussed innovative approaches to improving educational performance that would allow American students to be better equipped to compete in the ideas economy. Mr. Chopra emphasized the need for greater R&D in this sector and stressed the importance of personalized instruction. Mr. Vaitheeswaran encouraged increased parental involvement in ensuring that students are receiving a complete and balanced education. He concluded by noting that adults, too, need to keep "relearning how to learn" in order to adapt to a fast-innovating world economy.