Later tonight Former Vice President Al Gore is scheduled to speak to Democratic Party faithful. It has been eight years since Gore lost one of this nation’s closest elections for the White House. But he has emerged as the most recognized unsuccessful U.S. presidential nominees in history. Gore’s efforts to protect the environment in a method that strengthens the economy were the basis of a best-selling book and then an award-winning documentary. Last year, An Inconvenient Truth, won two Academy Awards!
I’ve been writing a lot and reading even more about how going green and become environmentally friendly can be a money-saver and good will creator for small firms. But another kind of environmental concern has gotten my attention: a warning about the nation’s innovation ecosystem.
While there are a lot of jabs about Gore and the invention of the Internet, an early Web innovator is sounding an alarm about the health of the environment for innovation in the United States. Judy Estrin has written a book based on an extensive tech innovation background. Estrin co-founded Bridge Communications in 1981 which merged into 3Com five years later. In 1988 Estrin was involved in start-up Network Computing Devices and became its CEO in 1993. Estrin’s third start-up, Precept Software, was launched in 1995 and acquired three years later by Cisco. She went on to help launch other firms and also serves on FedEx and Walt Disney; but she is a new author too!
In her new book, “Closing the Innovation Gap”, Estrin says innovation is crucial to social, economic and cultural development. Estrin interviewed over 150 technology innovators as part of the research for the book and concludes a short-term outlook and a reliance on quick fixes and fast profits have diluted the curiosity and patience that sustain true innovation and create the potential for future economic growth.
Estrin calls not only on business leaders, but government and non-profit movers and shakers to save the innovation ecosystem of the nation. Her suggestion for reform is to focus on four challenges – creating energy or reducing its use; understanding climate change; improving health care; and improving personal and national security.