From the beginni ng of Joseph Francisco’s presidential succession, he has focused on o ne overarching theme—ensuring that aspiring chemists and seasoned pro fessionals in the U.S. have the skill sets, resources, and external environ ment to build and sustain a robust workforce in the U.S. Given the historic job losses in our enterprise in the past few years, he felt that this was by far his most important priority.
Last year at the ACS spring meeting, a Presidential symposium explored the skills needed by industry in a globa l environment and what universities could do to provide those skills. Also last year, President Francisco appointed two presidential task forces, both of which have now come to fruition. One task force completed its work late last year and developed the concept of an ACS international center, which would be the first place a U.S. chemist would come to learn about int ernational education, research, and employment opportunities abroad and a n on U.S. chemist would come to learn about those same opportunities in the U .S.
The second task force was charged with ensuring that the U.S. remains the most innovative and entrepreneurial country in the world. This t ask force was headed by Harvard University professor and entrepreneur Georg e Whitesides and comprised eminent members of the chemical enterprise from industry, academia, and government, all with experience in entrepreneurship . They outlined the current landscape of innovation in chemistry, broadly d efined; defined barriers and opportunities for stimulating innovation; and recommended specific programs that ACS could implement to help chemists bec ome innovators and entrepreneurs and thus create new, high-paying sustainab le jobs in the U.S. and stem further job losses
The Task Force had many r ecommendations, which fall into four major categories.
First, the task f orce recommended that ACS should develop a single organizational unit 212;a kind of “technological farmers’ market”—offer ing affordable (or free) help to entrepreneurs. This unit is envisioned as supporting entrepreneurs by facilitating more affordable access to reso urces that should foster the creation of small companies from startups. Rel evant resources might include information, management expertise, key servic es, and mentors. The unit could also support entrepreneurs in making introductions to much-needed capital and fostering partnerships with large companies. ACS staff and several ACS governance units are already exploring how this one-stop portal can be implemented.
Second, the task force reco mmended that ACS should increase its advocacy of policies at the federal and state level to improve the business environment for entrepreneurs and startup companies. The task force suggested that ACS should urge reform s within the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to assure more accurate paten ts and faster issuance. The USPTO has a backlog of 700,000 patents, and the slow pace of issuance is a deterrent to keeping the U.S. competitive. ACS needs to lobby for legislative reforms, but in addition, ACS has talented u nemployed members who could be of assistance to patent examiners. ACS has w ritten to the head of the USPTO and have already heard back that they are i nterested in exploring a number of ideas. The task force also outlined a nu mber of financial policies that if enacted could encourage large companies to partner with small ones to promote entrepreneurship. These include prefe rential tax treatment for repatriated income invested in U.S.-based develop ers of technology and making the R&D tax credit more simplified, perman ent, and transferable. And there was a host of other ideas.< p class="MsoNormal" style='margin-left:.25in'>
The third recommendation urged ACS to partner more vigoro usly with academic institutions and other relevant organizations to promote awareness of career pathways and educational opportunities that involv e or include entrepreneurship. The task force had several interesting sugge stions that will be pursued by various staff and governance units.
And f inally, the task force felt that ACS should increase public awareness of the value of early-stage entrepreneurship in the chemical enterprise w ith focused media coverage and information targeted to federal agencies tha t support chemistry. In addition, ACS should provide ways to recognize entr epreneurs publicly, to increase their visibility and enhance their opportun ities for success.
In the near future, President Francisco plans to relea se the entire report to members, the public, and policymakers. If you have ideas, please send them to Madeleine Jacobs, m_jacobs**At_Symbol_Here**acs.org.
As this Task Force was concluding its w ork, President Barack Obama delivered his January 2011 State of the Union A ddress. In that address, President Obama stated: “The first ste p in winning the future is encouraging American innovation. None of us can predict with certainty what the next big industry will be, or where the new jobs will come from. …What we can do—what America does better than anyone—is spark the creativity and imagination of our people. 221;
To that end, the American Chemical Society is positioned to help sti mulate entrepreneurial activities across the chemical enterprise to help sp ark the creativity and imagination of our country’s chemists and ther eby create quality jobs in the U.S.
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