Governors Use State of the State Addresses to Highlight Commitment to Innovators

This week, Americans tuned in to Washington, D.C. as President Donald Trump delivered his first State of the Union Address. President Trump made a strong case for the importance of intellectual property (IP) protections, stating, “We will protect American workers and American intellectual property.”

But President Trump isn’t the only voice of leadership sharing this message. Over the next couple of months, governors in most states will have delivered their own versions of the “state of things.” These State of the State addresses provide an opportunity for governors to celebrate positive policy trends and highlight areas of focus for 2018.

Not surprisingly, the importance of IP-driven innovation is a theme that is top of mind with the governors – many of whom are actively recruiting new businesses and investments in their states. The prospect of new jobs and economic opportunities for citizens within their borders has governors working harder and smarter to create a business environment that allows entrepreneurs to take risks with confidence.

In Indiana, Gov. Eric Holcomb spoke at length about Indiana’s budding innovation atmosphere – a direct result of a concentrated effort to make the state more competitive across the region, including the establishment of a $250 million Next-Level Indiana Trust Fund. The governor announced he’d begin making “strategic investments to build and support more innovation and entrepreneurship” in Indiana starting this quarter.

“Tech is taking root in Hoosier soil,” Gov. Holcomb said. “It’s grown by nearly 28 percent in central Indiana since 2015. Take Infosys, which was the first Indian company on the New York Stock Exchange and is now in more than 50 countries. Infosys could have put its business tech hub anywhere—and they chose Indiana. That will mean 2,000 new jobs by the end of 2021—in areas such as artificial intelligence, emerging digital technologies, the cloud, and big data.”

On the other side of the country, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee spotlighted the many companies who have put roots down in the Evergreen State because of the pro-entrepreneur ecosystem that gives business visionaries the right tools to bring ideas to market. Gov. Inslee’s pride in this ecosystem is an encouraging sign for future business leaders in search of a nurturing home for creativity.

“Washington State has so much to be proud of,” Gov. Inslee said. “Our biotech companies are creating new treatments for cancer. Scientists at Hanford have helped confirm the existence of gravitational waves. We even make world-famous beer and wine… We have succeeded in aerospace, in software, in online commerce, in coffee, in biotechnology, and there is every reason to believe we will succeed in fighting climate change and growing our economy in the process.”

All of this advancement takes a commitment to American innovation and the intellectual property system at its heart.

Back East, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott is actively seeking to reach and recruit young entrepreneurs to create in the Green Mountain State. Gov. Scott took the opportunity to announce a bold, sophisticated new campaign “to identify and persuade working age individuals, families, and entrepreneurs to relocate to Vermont.”

Citing Vermont’s status as one of the country’s safest and healthiest states, Gov. Scott said his new program would use “state-of-the-art targeting, plus direct outreach to individuals and businesses, to increase the number of workers.”

And far West, Hawaii Gov. David Ige is touting the Aloha State’s commitment to fostering collaboration between start-ups together with new loans and grants. Hawaii even hosts an annual “hackathon” competition, which enlists hundreds of code writers “to develop solutions for the state’s biggest information technology challenges.”

Gov. Ige has put a tremendous focus on building up and preparing young people for high-value, IP-intensive jobs, a large part of which, according to him, is the availability of strong STEM education opportunities. “The good news,” Ige said, “is that it is expanding at all levels.”

And it’s not just these governors. All over the country, America’s state leaders are touting the importance of growing knowledge-driven economies – and that starts with protecting and promoting intellectual property.

Roughly half of the nation’s governors still have addresses to give. But already one trend is clear: we can expect much more talk about how investing in the American intellectual property system serves to benefit every state and the country as a whole.

At the Global Innovation Policy Center, we’ll continue tracking these commitments from governors and help provide guidance as needed to ensure American innovators can continue doing what they do best – that is, innovating.

Frank Cullen is executive director of U.S. intellectual property policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Global Innovation Policy Center.

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