David Muchow, the President and CEO of SkyBuilt Power, shared an article of his with me in which he lays out his vision of how the U.S. can foster green innovation.
Entitled “How to Bake the Green Technology Cake: The Missing Key to Technology Innovation,” the article analogizes the process of getting an invention from conception to marketplace to that of baking a cake (see a modified version of the article here).
For small inventors, in particular, Muchow observes that the necessary ingredients are scattered, the cook takes too long, and oftentimes there’s no oven. So he lays out three steps for baking the “innovation cake.”
The Ingredients: According to the article, the necessary ingredients – funding, legal advice, business advice, industry knowledge, customers – have to be collected from many different sources.
The proposed solution is an on-line one-stop virtual information meeting place for inventors, grantors, buyers, sellers, VCs and patent lawyers. Muchow calls this a technology eBay or “t-Bay” and suggests creating one for each technology or product subject area.
The Cooking Time: Here, the problem is the length and cost of the patent process. The article suggests a guaranteed time frame for granting or rejecting green patent applications.
The Missing Oven: The article notes the lack of a central, physical meeting place for all stakeholders and proposes creating Local Technology Centers (LTC) in each state where inventors, business firms, law firms, investors, government representatives and engineers could meet.
These would act as both “supermarkets” for the ingredients and the “ovens” in which to bake them as inventors could present their inventions to panels of experts, with winners receiving grants to spend on across-the-board support at the LTCs.
Muchow says his plan would ultimately pay for itself as the LTCs could take equity interests in the startups being formed and get paid back in full with interest if the companies become profitable.
Apparently, somebody in the U.S. government has been listening because a group of federal agencies recently announced they would partner to launch a green entrepreneurial initiative promoting “Proof of Concept” Centers, which bear a striking resemblance to Muchow’s LTCs.
Called the i6 Green Challenge, the plan to accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship in green technologies will provide $12 million to establish or expand the Centers, whose function is to:
support all aspects of the entrepreneurship process, from assisting with technology feasibility and business plan development, to providing access to early-stage capital and mentors to offer critical guidance to innovators. Centers allow emerging technologies to mature and demonstrate their market potential, making them more attractive to investors and helping entrepreneurs turn their idea or technology into a business.
Pre-heat your oven to 375º F and get out those measuring cups.
Eric Lane is a patent attorney at Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps in San Diego and the author of Green Patent Blog. Mr. Lane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.