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Government Innovations: Past, Present, and Future

The world is moving forward. Some countries get left behind, while some move ahead. The deciding factor is not which country has the most intelligent residents. There has, in fact, been example after example of people of all different nationalities creating impactful innovations. The deciding factor

Phil McKinney
Phil McKinney
4 min read
Government Innovations: Past, Present, and Future
Governments will always play a huge part in solving big problems. They set public policy and are uniquely able to provide the resources to make sure solutions reach everyone who needs them. They also fund basic research, which is a crucial component of the innovation that improves life for everyone.

Bill Gates

The world is moving forward. Some countries get left behind, while some move ahead. The deciding factor is not which country has the most intelligent residents. There has, in fact, been example after example of people of all different nationalities creating impactful innovations. The deciding factor, in actuality, is the support innovative individuals and businesses are given by their government and what government innovations spur the rest of us on.

Historically, the United States has been at the forefront of providing this type of support to citizens, even going so far as to recruit foreigners to live in America and assist with innovative efforts. Recently, however, the United States has begun to fall behind in the race to the next big round of innovation. Due to this, the most recent presidents have begun to invest more in, and reinvigorate the government innovation sector.

Former Government Innovations

Encouraging innovation, as previously stated, has been a longstanding tradition of the U.S. government. President after president has made it a priority to do something bigger and better than the former one. They have pushed the country to do things that were previously thought impossible, and for this they are remembered:

Woodrow Wilson: President Wilson noticed a flaw in America’s defense during World War I – it was not up to par in aviation. When he took office, after the war, he made it a priority for the U.S. to pursue aviation, making an initial approval of $100,000 for the effort. To make this a reality, Wilson pushed for his administration to begin an airmail service. In the beginning, it was just between Washington D.C. and New York City, but it soon began to expand to the other side of the country. The ability to transport mail by plane, rather than by train, subtracted roughly two days off the standard mail delivery time from one side of the country to the other. This brought America into an age of significantly faster communication.

Richard Nixon: President Nixon was a staunch defender of investing in national defense. Because of his efforts to make the United States a military world power, many departments within the military were able to pursue far-reaching innovative efforts. One such effort was the development of speech recognition. This development project was then picked up by several universities, and then Steve Jobs stumbled upon it. Enter Siri.

George. W. Bush: President Bush was put in a situation where innovation was necessary. With America at war with some of the biggest global oil producers, America needed to prioritize independence from oil. So, to make strides in this effort, Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act in 2007. This led the American government to invest more than $22 billion in climate change technology R&D. Because of this investment, as well as other governmental efforts during the Bush administration, the 60-watt LED light bulb was developed, offering considerable savings in energy consumption. It is important to note that LED technology had been developed in the 1960s, but it was only when the government made it a priority that its benefits became available to the consumer market.

Current Government Innovations

Donald Trump: President Trump is not the first president to pursue the idea of wiping out inefficiencies in government. Obama, Clinton, and Reagan have made well-documented efforts at bringing government agencies up to speed with the latest technology, as well as time and money-saving solutions. To carry on this drive for government efficiency, President Trump has created the White House Office of American Innovation. The office wants to bring business acumen to government work. Trump’s senior advisor, Jared Kushner, will lead the office, along with a handful of other White House staff. They will pursue business methods that could work in government activities. They will be consulting with the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Office of Management and Budget, and some of the top business leaders from around the country. The end goal is to improve services to citizens, make the various government agencies more streamlined, and to replace outdated practices and technologies with more innovative strategies and tools.

Future Government Innovations

The United States's lead in global innovation is shrinking. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has lowered America’s research and development investment ranking to 10th place, as it has continually fallen short of its three percent of GDP investment goal. In addition to that, within the next decade, China will be outspending the U.S. in R&D and, compared to just 10 years ago, the government has reduced its support of basic research by 13 percent. The current and last administrations are very much aware of these gloomy numbers. In order to combat a further decline in innovation the U.S. government has created a strategy for future innovation.

Released at the close of 2015, the updated Strategy for American Innovation lays out several projects that the government wants to undertake in order to encourage innovation. The plan relies on three key strategies.

The first is that it will embrace ways of increasing governmental innovations, which will in turn allow civil society and the private sector to become more innovative. Second, the government wants so concentrate on several strategic areas that could help spread prosperity and enhance national priorities. These areas include everything from precision medicine to advanced vehicles. Third, the government wants to stop making budgetary cuts that hinder R&D, and instead concentrate on finding ways to further invest in these efforts. The plan outlines steps the government will take in order to make these goals a reality.

Governmental innovations is not easy. There are always budgetary restraints and individuals and corporations fighting against it. This, however, is no different than the struggle to innovate in any business – almost always an uphill battle. However, if the right strategies are employed, government innovations can happen.

To better understand how to leverage innovation to your advantage, reach out The Innovators Network.

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Phil McKinney is an innovator, podcaster, author, and speaker. He is the retired CTO of HP. Phil's book, Beyond The Obvious, shares his expertise and lessons learned on innovation and creativity.


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