Connecting state and local government leaders
COMMENTARY | How should the public and private sectors work together to ensure the U.S. remains the global leader in technology? Here are four key steps.
Even at this moment of economic uncertainty, the United States has the potential to create a new era of leadership in global technology. The question—particularly in the wake of the historic federal investments in innovation and infrastructure—is, how can the public and private sector best partner to usher this era in?
We at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a business organization in the region, see four key guiding principles for successful public-private partnerships.
First, Do No Harm
The innovation sector is dynamic with new products and platforms being created every day. At the state, local and federal level, we must avoid policies that hinder innovation and investment, increase costs, or harm consumers, small businesses and entrepreneurs alike.
Take autonomous vehicles, for instance. Some states are overly restrictive when it comes to the testing and deployment of innovative mobility services for moving people and goods. A unified federal standard for autonomous vehicle testing and deployment would avoid a patchwork of conflicting state regulations and would bring greater certainty to this emerging industry.
Leaders of all political stripes sometimes like to use the innovation ecosystem as a talking point for what’s wrong with America. But the reality is that our technology companies support millions of jobs and produce trillions of dollars in economic activity here and abroad.
The Silicon Valley Leadership Group represents the global leaders in technology, biotech, clean tech, artificial intelligence, mobility and more. With inflation near 40-year highs and with so much at stake from a geopolitical standpoint, we cannot afford to take any steps backward that may jeopardize our global economic leadership.
Support High-Return Technology Investments
We must redouble efforts to support targeted, high-return technology investments. Two prime examples: expanding access to high-speed broadband in communities across the nation and supporting semiconductor manufacturing in the United States.
Every American should have access to internet speeds greater than 25 megabits per second. The good news is that the infrastructure law includes $65 billion for broadband with $42.45 billion for states to fuel deployments in underserved communities.
Meanwhile, the CHIPS Act includes $52 billion to increase the domestic production of semiconductors with the hopes of increasing domestic capacity, reversing the current shortage, and bolstering national security. The U.S. Department of Commerce should disburse these funds in a fair manner so they can be deployed rapidly and efficiently throughout the entire semiconductor supply chain.
Invest in Diversity
The innovation sector must innovate itself, especially by supporting a more diverse set of founders and tech workers.
Today, women founders receive less than 10% of venture capital dollars, and Black founders receive just 1%. Over the next decade, venture capital firms will have to expand their focus. This includes funding for more founders who are women and people of color, not only because it is the right thing to do but also because the prospects for generating higher returns and market value necessitate it.
The United States will also ultimately need immigration reform that welcomes entrepreneurs from other parts of the world and increases opportunities for those already here.
Finally, one overlooked aspect of what makes Silicon Valley great is its ability to pivot quickly, test what works, and pilot new ideas and approaches. This mindset should continue to be replicated across the nation.
Silicon Valley, of course, is the beating heart of innovation. But, over the past five years, the United States has become a true Silicon Nation, with startups growing in Billings, Mont.; Bend, Ore.; Boston; Denver; Lincoln, Neb.; Provo, Utah; and beyond. As this ethos spreads, more and more of our leaders will have a stake in supporting this ecosystem. Policymakers can adopt this approach as well, working with industry to embrace pilots that support innovators working on some of our nation’s toughest challenges.
These steps, in a vacuum, aren’t a panacea, but rather should be taken in concert. Put it together, and you start to see the recipe for innovation across the nation. With its history, infrastructure, people and vision, I believe that Silicon Valley will always be the home for visionaries and our most innovative companies—and that remains true even in times of economic volatility.
Looking forward—as innovation clusters continue to grow—it's important that the same ethos which has made Silicon Valley strong for so long continues to serve as the foundation of our economy of the future. Doing so can maintain our innovation edge today and drive renewed vitality and dynamism to power our economy for years to come.
Ahmad Thomas is the CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.