A top-level panel created this week by the White House and the National Governors Association will draft plans by July to accelerate the development of technology, including online commerce.
The joint effort, dubbed the U.S. Innovation Partnership, will identify ways for federal agencies and state governments to lift burdensome regulations, boost technology development, stimulate venture capital, remove legal barriers and provide technology advice to small and medium-sized businesses, without having to ask Congress to approve new spending programs.
Vice President Al Gore announced the effort in a Feb. 3 speech to a meeting of the nation's governors in Washington. It will "stimulate the development and use of new technologies that can help us meet our common goals of generating economic growth, improving our schools and health care, better protecting the environment at lower costs and reinventing our government at all levels," Gore said.
The four members of the panel are Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, Connecticut Gov. John Rowland, John Gibbons, the president's science adviser, and Mary Good, undersecretary for technology at the U.S. Department of Commerce .
The scope of the panel will be detailed in a memorandum of understanding that will be drafted over the next two weeks, said Jay Kayne, director of policy studies for economic development and commerce, at the governors association.
The first meeting of the panel's staff-level working group is expected in late February or early March, Kayne said.
Recommendations should be unveiled at the association's meeting in July.
To fulfill this charter, the task force will look at several issues, including venture capital and regulatory burdens, Kayne said.
"We want to find how to get capital to every point in the innovation cycle," he said. "We are looking for gaps in the system."
One project already under way is a Web page (http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov) designed to link entrepreneurs with venture capital.
But state and federal regulators must clear away regulations that have limited participation in the Web page to companies and venture capitalists in only four states, said Gary Bachula, deputy undersecretary for technology at the Commerce Department. "We are making them aware of it and how to get on it,' he said.
The focus on state-federal cooperation is partly a recognition that the results of technology transfer over the years have been mixed, said Bachula. "We have not perfected that process at all."
"We think we can speed commercialization [of new technologies] through collaboration," said Bachula.
State and federal officials have talked about better coordination of economic policies for at least 10 years. In 1995, Gibbons asked Ohio Gov. Richard Celeste and former Pennsylvania Gov. Richard Thornburgh to head a task force.
The two governors concluded that states need to have a role in economic and technology policy making, Kayne said.
"We have felt that states are making huge investments and the federal government is making investments in the states. But there have been problems with overlapping [efforts] and being duplicative and sometimes being counterproductive," Kayne said.
Gibbons next contacted the governors association, then headed by Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, who asked governors in 1995 to serve on a committee intended to foster greater cooperation between Washington and the states.
"We expected six or seven [volunteers]," Kayne said. Instead, 17 governors - eight Democrats, eight Republicans and one independent - stepped forward. "It was tri-partisan," Kayne said. Each of the governors named a representative to the committee.
The representatives now provide the staff for the new task force, announced Feb. 4
Work by the association on the memorandum began in Aug-ust and included three regional meetings. In addition to the White House technology office, the Commerce Department's Technology Administration also is involved.