September 16, 2015

Employing Innovation – A Legacy of Inventors, Entrepreneurs, and Innovators

This is the second in a series of innovation pieces leading up to the 3rd Annual Global IP Summit on November 5 & 6, 2015. Check out the other posts in this series – Part 1: Why Innovation Policy is Critical NowPart 3: Being Competitive in the Global MarketplacePart 4: Innovation Policy: the Elephant in the Room. At the Summit, GIPC will release a new study looking at the state impact of IP, updating the 2013 IP Jobs Map.

Ever hear of a “lung-on-a-chip”?  If not, you will soon.  This breakthrough, slightly-larger-than-thumb-drive sized organ simulator is the brainchild of Geraldine Hamilton, now President and Chief Scientific Officer at a new biotechnology company Emulate. Dr. Hamilton saw an opportunity, leveraged her experience, and added a touch of imagination to break out of the traditional petri dish cell testing and on to a “polymer microenvironment” with more conclusive initial results and leads to the next stage of product development for this groundbreaking technology. Since starting her work at Harvard’s Wyss Institute, partially funded by NIH, the innovation cycle proved virtuous once again. Her team has now created multiple organs-on-a-chip (think liver-on-a-chip and heart-on-a-chip) and is partnering with major bio-pharma companies to expand further. (To learn more about this project, here’s the Ted Talk.)

What is not surprising is that such an innovation-minded effort was started in the United States, and ultimately spun-off into a successful start-up business. The U.S. Chamber recently recognized other such inventors—like Masimo’s Joe Kiani in Irvine, CA who developed a medical device company that can check blood oxidation without pricking your finger; and Louis Foreman, who helps build start-ups through his Charlotte, NC based Edison Nation—at the 2015 IP Champions award ceremony.  While the Chamber’s goal is to highlight the efforts of individuals leading today’s innovation, it has always been part of the American business-DNA. The Inventor’s Hall of Fame at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office lists over 500 investors starting with its first inductee, Thomas Alva Edison. We can trace back through the generations, from George Carver’s agricultural innovations (peanut butter!) to Benjamin Franklin’s lightning rod.

As impressive as these modern and historic innovations are, the future of invention is uncertain.

Our history and strong recognition of invention and intellectual property has helped provide a foundation for ideas to blossom into economic enterprises, ultimately fueling new jobs and economic growth.  However, there is a need in the U.S. for more resources and more clarity into our innovation ecosystem.  Confusion and lack of clarity in this area can chill investment. Add to that more regulations and mountains of red tape and you’re left with fewer and fewer individuals taking the risks needed to turn innovative ideas into growing businesses.

For example, a company like Emulate needs FDA approval and strong partnerships in order to share intellectual property to continue developing this groundbreaking technology. Emulate has been successful in doing so because they were able to harness  great partnerships to go along with their amazing scientific advances, while also utilizing the resources of affiliated institutions and companies, to sort through this bureaucratic maze, fund growth, and fend off potential threats.

But not every company has the wherewithal to navigate the maze.

We must help companies like Emulate and scientists like Hamilton continue to build our culture of innovation by ensuring public policy fosters their imagination and entrepreneurship. Having a strong intellectual property system is a critical part of that success.


Brian Noyes is executive director of strategy and communications at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC).

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