Building the 21st Century Economy… One Lab at a Time

We’ve seen some growth in local ‘hackerspaces’ and labs — and there have been some interesting proposals to make these more available (such as including them in libraries). Rob Carlson is taking this even further with suggestions to encourage “Garage Biotech” in his proposal, “Fostering Economic and Physical Security Through Public-Private Partnerships and a National Network of Community Labs” (PDF). 

“In short, I proposed that the U.S. government facilitate the founding and operation of community biotech labs as a means to improve the pace of innovation and reduce the attendant level of risk.”

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In his proposal, he applies data from recent Kauffmann Foundation studies on innovation and job growth to Biotech:

Start-ups and small organizations are at the heart of both innovation and job creation in the United States. A recent re-analysis of Census Bureau data published by the Kauffman Foundation determined that 100% of net job creation in the United States is due to start-up companies. Companies in their first year of business create an average of 5.7 jobs, for a total of 3 million new jobs per year nationwide, while “all other ages of firms are net job destroyers.”

Small firms are also responsible for an impressive array of innovations now driving the U.S. economy. Table 1 includes a list—literally A to Z—of important innovations provided by small firms during the 20th century. Mature products based on these technologies are unlikely to be mass-produced in garages, but garage innovation played a critical role during their development.

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The idea that these kinds of spaces (can) have a significant role in encouraging innovation feels pretty engrained here at NMTC, hance our support for The Hive, Quelab and the Santa Fe Complex and their activities. But… it feels like we should say more on why.

For me, the biggest unique value I see is in the opportunity to bring different kinds of talented people together in a semi-public space for the making or doing of something. While we like to help serendipity along with a variety of networking events, actual collaboration really builds the kinds of connections that can build friendships, companies and sometimes both. Lowering the threshold for those kinds of interactions – and having cool gear – helps make innovation a little more likely.  

To a fair extent, that’s why we also support events like the NM and Global Game Jams (coming soon!), Mobile Apps Challenges and BarCampABQ. We’ve met great people and seen some great results at each. While it may seem that each of these places and events is for ‘people who do that sort of thing’ we often find that it’s with the involvement of new people with talents outside these circles that real innovation occurs.