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Renewing America

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Morning Brief: HBR Proposes Strategy for U.S. Clean Technology

by Jonathan Masters
March 13, 2012

Children take a look at photovoltaic solar technology being installed in Arcadia, Florida (Doug Murray/courtesy Reuters). Children take a look at photovoltaic solar technology being installed in Arcadia, Florida (Doug Murray/courtesy Reuters).

The Harvard Business Review proposes a 4-part strategy to shape the U.S. government’s role in promoting the cleantech industry. Recommendations include acting as an angel investor by making small investments to prove technical feasibility of novel technologies (following the example of ARPA-E), focusing growth capital investments on proven technologies and business models, evaluating and developing eco-systems, and setting coherent national standards and guidelines. With Solyndra’s failure, and the slowdown in loans from the energy department, perhaps now is the time to reevaluate current U.S. policy (NYT).

India Brings Criminal Charges on Facebook, Google

While India is a compelling market for internet firms, content regulations create hazards for social media (WSJ). Google, Facebook, and ten other social firms were charged with failing to censor material that could offend religious groups. While all responded to complaints and removed offending material, the criminal complaint filed by an Indian journalist argues the websites have a responsibility to proactively police all user-generated content—a burden the firms argue is unfeasible. While these companies face fines and their executives could receive jail time, a guilty finding could also slow the growth and innovation of social media.

Innovation. Read more on how the U.S. capacity to innovate could play a chief role in economic growth.

Education and Human Capital

Efforts at Education Innovation

TED launched TED-Ed, an initiative to curate and develop high quality, original short videos targeted to high school students to supplement classroom instruction (WashPost). TED will use an open submission process to find lesson plans that its visualizers will develop. In related news, Khan Academy—provider of a broad range of free instructional videos—launched a new iPad app this weekend that is currently the top education app (WashPost). Both efforts show the potential to use technology’s scale to deploy high quality educational materials widely at low cost.

Education and Human Capital. Read more from experts discussing ways to improve U.S. education and immigration policies.

International Trade and Investment

Developing Nations and Generic Drug Production

The Indian government ruled that Bayer must license Nexar—a treatment for kidney cancer—to an Indian generic manufacturer for royalties of 6 percent of revenue. The generic must sell for 8,800 rupees ($176), only 3 percent of Bayer’s price. Ensuring both access to cutting-edge drugs and affordability is difficult for many developing nations. While most multilateral agreements on patents allow governments to force licensing (NYT), few exercise that power. Some compel licensing of AIDS drugs, but India joins Thailand as the only other nation to apply this power to cancer drugs.

International trade and investment. Read more from leading analysts on the debate over next steps in U.S. trade policy.

Infrastructure

The United States Needs a Modern Water System

Lynn Broaddus of the Johnson Foundation argues for thinking beyond repairing the current U.S. water system’s leaky pipes and pumps to designing a modern, flexible water system (TheHill). That U.S. water infrastructure needs considerable investment is clear; the American Society of Civil Engineers gave water systems a D-, while the American Water Works Association estimates $1 trillion of investment will be required for repairs and expansion. To address economic and environmental challenges, Broaddus advocates for new technological approaches, changes to financing and regulatory structures, and an integrated approach to the issues of drinking water, stormwater, and wastewater.

Infrastructure. Read more on how upgrading the nation’s aging network of roads, bridges, airports, railways, and water systems is essential to maintaining U.S. competitiveness.

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