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Does Obama get "stim-novation"? More calls for cabinet-level innovation posts

Posted by: Reena Jana on December 1, 2008

Today in Washington D.C., Fred Block, a University of California, Davis, sociology professor presented a white paper calling for President-Elect Obama to appoint a cabinet-level Department of Innovation within the next two years.

The presentation took place at a day-long event, “How Will the Obama Administration and New Congress Support Innovation and an Economic Crisis?” sponsored by U.C. Davis, the Economic Policy Institute, and the Information Technology and Innovation Institute.

Block and his co-author, Matthew Keller, argue that creating a Dept. of Innovation would “raise the profile of current federal innovation efforts and improve their coordination. This new Department would also accelerate the deployment of new technologies that meet such critical national needs as energy independence and reducing greenhouse gases.” Block and Keller suggest that a Dept. of Innovation, with a Secretary-level head, would help ensure that the Chief Technology Officer post that Obama has spoken about would be more than a symbolic position.

Block and Keller also have specific suggestions, such as “Direct $3-$5 billion of the stimulus package at non-defense R&D and funnel other monies at energy efficient activities such as retrofitting of government buildings and vacant housing with an emphasis on solar panels and use of green materials; and for the development of pilot programs for expanding broadband access and to begin to upgrade the electricity grid.” They refer to so-called “stim-novation,” or spending that stimulates the economy while also encouraging the development of new technologies, materials, and medical instruments (and other products).

You may have been reading the recent blog posts by our resident innovation guru Bruce Nussbaum, asking President-Elect Barack Obama to name an "innovation dream team," as well as columnist Jeneanne Rae's latest essay, "What Obama Needs to Know About Innovation." It seems that each week, there are more very public voices pushing the President-Elect to pay more attention to the I-word in a way that's more than rhetoric.

What do you think: does Obama get "innovation"? Does he get "stim-novation"? And would a cabinet-level Dept. of Innovation be a good thing? Is a CTO enough?

Reader Comments


December 1, 2008 7:09 PM

Departments of innovation generally don't work in corporate settings, and I'm skeptical that it would fare any better in government. Better would be for President Obama to set a broad-reaching innovation agenda -- with specific goals and accountabilities -- spanning the existing Commerce, Energy, Transportation, HHS, Labor, and Interior departments.

Bruce Temkin

December 1, 2008 10:01 PM

I like Bruce Nussbaum's idea about an Innovation Dream Team. This group should look at how the government can stimulate growth through three areas of innovation: 1) Sectors that coincide with our national interest (e.g., energy independence); 2) Opportunities to create significant long-term economic value; and 3) Places where the government can dramatically cut its costs.

A CTO is not sufficient since technology is not the only component of innovation. This dream team needs to operate like a venture capitalist; examining the opportunities for the innovation as well as the potential for success of the different players in the industry. Any government stimulus package should also fit the stage of development of the innovation; changing the structure as the innovation evolves from zero-stage to commercialization.

I’ve also recommended the appointment of a Citizen Experience Officer in my blog “Customer Experience Matters” (

Bob Jacobson

December 1, 2008 11:26 PM

There is pending on, a website established by the Obama transition team to collect good ideas -- innovations! -- a proposal to create a Department of Innovation. BW readers can go there and register a vote in favor of the Department of Innovation, whose inner workings are not specified but whose spirit is:

The concept has 95 votes and needs 31 more votes to make it to the next round of consideration.

Eva L.

February 4, 2009 1:28 AM

The economic stimulus package is being held up in the Senate, as they make their revisions by the House. Right now, the terms of disagreement are over the amount, the amount of tax cuts, stimulating housing sales, and how fast it will get spent. Applying for a faxless payday loan is far faster. The Senate, especially Republicans, have disagreed with the House version of the bill because the amount of taxes cut weren't sufficient. At this rate, it will take longer to get this bill passed than for every man, woman, and child to get a faxless payday loan.

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What comes next? The Bloomberg Businessweek Innovation and Design blog chronicles new tools for creativity and collaboration, innovation case studies in both the corporate and social sectors, and the new ideas that have the power to change the way things have always been done.

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