Government and Innovation

Inspired by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who recently announced plans to use drones to deliver packages to Amazon customers thirty minutes from the time of placing an order, a Minnesota microbrewery, Lakemaid Beer, announced its own spin on drone delivery service: using drones to deliver cold beer to ice fishermen working on frozen lakes. Managing partner Jack Supple told the Wall Street Journal that he anticipated fewer safety issues for Lakemaid than for Amazon, as Amazon would have drones flying down city and residential streets, whereas Lakemaid would be flying the drones across flat, largely uninhabited lakes. Apparently Lakemaid had planned to start delivering beer via drone imminently—that is, until the FAA informed Supple that drone delivery of beer was indeed a commercial use of the technology, and therefore is prohibited until the FAA finally gets around to publishing regulations, sometime in 2015. Thankfully Lakemaid is willing to put its plans on hold until then. It is still unclear, however, how the FAA will compensate the ice fishermen unjustly deprived of beer.

Entrepreneurs in the United States are, unfortunately, well accustomed to the delays that come from government erecting obstacles along the path to innovation. What many are not quite as familiar with is government getting directly involved in the process, in an attempt to speed it up. The Wall Street Journal reports that ten companies are committed to…wait for it…a five-year plan, in which they will work alongside the National Institutes of Health to perform research leading to treatments or cures for Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis & Lupus. Some might see this effort to pool the best and brightest minds from leading drug companies as promising, but I’m skeptical. Can the “Accelerating Medicines Partnership” do what its name promises when, as WSJ reports, “NIH scientists will review progress and provide help with scientific decisions”? Given that our government will be picking up a larger and larger portion of the nation’s prescription drug tab in the near future, maybe the NIH scientists will “help” steer the “partnership” away from research likely to result in more expensive therapies? Even if they don’t, this program represents a significant expansion of fascist involvement of government in an industry that, with some exceptions and reservations, seems to be welcoming it.

Even though Steve Jobs is no longer at the helm, and even though it’s been unjustly harassed by antitrust litigation, Apple seems to be continuing its tradition of boldly expanding into new markets. The WSJ reports that the company is buying up Internet infrastructure at a rate consistent with its stated intention of revolutionizing the TV viewing experience. In addition, CEO Tim Cook recently said during a conference call that “Apple is on track to break into new product categories this year.” Moreover, Apple has hired executives with expertise in cable Internet infrastructure and TV research and development. (Read more here.) If our government stays out of the way, I am hopeful that Apple will provide an aesthetically pleasing, viable alternative to cable.

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1 Comment

Filed under Politics, Technology

One response to “Government and Innovation

  1. Gayle Parker

    Connecting the dots. . . If you were a medical scientific researcher or a drone builder, would you be tempted to accept a grant or soft loan to work alongside government? What if you didn’t? I think you’d be left in the dust. But government will use its power to further its own agenda to control the masses for yet more power. The result will be products that are less than scientific, less available and far more expensive.

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