The Many Facets of American Innovation and Entrepreneurship

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Dr. Dr. Dale Stokes at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, shows the group the Towed Hydrographic Robot (THOR) on May 1, 2017.
Dr. Dr. Dale Stokes at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, shows the group the Towed Hydrographic Robot (THOR) on May 1, 2017.

The Many Facets of American Innovation and Entrepreneurship

While Silicon Valley may be the best known center of U.S. innovation, the heart of American entrepreneurship lies in its people. Innovators around the country are creating amazing new products and technologies, as I found out during a tour accompanying 18 foreign journalists to the dynamic cities of Raleigh, Austin, and San Diego. A Bulgarian participant’s report from the trip concluded that, “in the land of unlimited possibilities, no dreams are too audacious.”

The Foreign Press Center’s American Innovation and Entrepreneurship foreign reporting tour, which took place from April 23- May 4, 2017, was aimed at spotlighting the diversity of innovation and entrepreneurship in the United States. The group convened in North Carolina’s Research Triangle, where we spent a few days hearing about how the three prestigious research universities in that area partner with local authorities to prevent ‘brain drain,’ keeping graduates in the area to work at a plethora of startups, incubators, and a world-famous research park.

After Raleigh, we went to Austin, Texas and learned how this formerly “sleepy college town” is grappling with explosive growth, owing largely to a welcoming innovation and entrepreneurship climate. We ended the tour in San Diego, an up-and-coming innovation hub. At the Scripps Institution of Oceanography there, they are solving the problem of mapping the sea floor in deep water, which can’t be mapped by satellites. The device they developed works in deep water, and by employing a supercomputer owned by another UC San Diego department, they are able to crunch the massive amounts of data captured.

Adam Garland, Chief Science Officer at Water Lens, a company that offers lab-quality water test results in ten minutes, demonstrates the company’s technology to participants on the American Innovation and Entrepreneurship tour in Austin, TX on April 27, 2017.

We heard from media outlets in each city about how media practitioners in the United States are finding innovative ways to survive in a rapidly-evolving media environment. In meetings with entrepreneurs around the country, the journalists heard about — and were impressed by — the idea that American entrepreneurs are encouraged to “fail forward,” as generally there is no stigma attached to failed ventures as long as one grows from the experience.

The journalists reflected that they learned a great deal from the tour, with one participant claiming that he learned more in twelve days that he had during his university career. When the Foreign Press Center leads these tours, we want our participants to create lifelong networks, and this tour has been no different. One participant from Indonesia has already welcomed one of our presenters, a journalism professor from the University of Texas at Austin, to her home city of Jakarta.

Over 12 days, we traveled more than 2,500 miles and saw a literal and figurative range of the depth and breadth of America’s culture of entrepreneurship and innovation, departing from the ‘beaten path’ and experiencing the many flavors of innovation and entrepreneurship.

About the Author: Mark Zimmer serves as a Media Relations Officer for the U.S. Department of State.

Editor's Note: This entry is also published on Medium.com/StateDept.