An interview with Chief Counsel Winslow Sargeant about Advocacy’s Seattle conference

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Chief Counsel Winslow Sargeant will lead Advocacy’s conference in Seattle on September 19th in conjunction with the Next Fifty celebration of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. I spoke recently with Dr. Sargeant about his hopes for the conference:

Q: What made Advocacy decide to convene this conference?

Dr. Sargeant: One of the ways Advocacy stays informed is by bringing together some of the best and brightest leaders in innovation and entrepreneurship. This conference in conjunction with Seattle’s “Next Fifty” commemoration is like the halftime at a football game—we’re at the midpoint of a century of innovation looking back at the enormous achievements by entrepreneurs, academia, and government over the past fifty years and looking ahead to try to envision what is needed as we start the next fifty.

Q: What intrigues you about the lineup of speakers and panelists?

Dr. Sargeant: They represent leaders in all facets of the economy—innovators and entrepreneurs as well as policymakers, academics, and investors. We’re fortunate to have such a dynamic group willing to advise us about how we can make further great strides in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Q: What are some growth areas for entrepreneurship in Seattle and nationwide?

Dr. Sargeant: When I look at Seattle, I see a whole host of growth areas, from aeronautics and software to e-commerce, from medical devices and research to forestry and natural resource applications. There are similar hubs of innovation around the nation. I’m pleased that the discussion will have relevance, not only for Seattle, but for national policy.

Q: What entrepreneurial challenges will need to be addressed in the future?

Dr. Sargeant: Over the next half century we will face challenges on how we provide a better quality of life. We will have to adapt our workplaces to the new wireless “unplugged” technology. Technology has a creative-destructive quality—what it creates on one hand it destroys on another—so where will the net benefits be? As we develop new technologies, we will need to explore how they will be financed, and how to safeguard our personal data. A great thing about America’s entrepreneurs is that they look forward and develop solutions to problems in a timely and cost-effective way—and by so doing, they create unprecedented innovations.

Q: What are appropriate roles for government and academia?

Dr. Sargeant: Government and universities have played central roles historically in building physical infrastructure and developing and sharing technologies. How will those roles change with our budgetary constraints? We’ll be listening to our panelists for recommendations on how the public-private partnership will be redefined in our future economy.

Q: What are some hoped-for outcomes and how will the Office of Advocacy follow up?

Dr. Sargeant: As we look at the challenges for entrepreneurs, innovators, and government, we hope we can list some possible solutions—or even additional challenges—which we can pass on to policymakers in the White House, Congress, and federal agencies. Our results will also help inform the “innovation initiative” we’ve started to help entrepreneurs lower the barriers they face in starting and growing their businesses. We will continue this dialogue, because for us to be effective, we need to hear the unique concerns of individual business owners.

—Kathryn Tobias, Senior Editor

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