How DOL might facilitate an Innovation for Jobs Ecosystem

By David Nordfors

An idea for innovation-for-jobs policy, building venture value chains for startups. The idea of this model is to align existing interests and incentives for the stakeholders. Government stimulates the competitive commercial business by sharing the risk for investors, so that they get all the upside if it goes well and half the downside if it doesn’t. No subsidies. The investors can now take higher risks, but they won’t go for low-growth opportunities. It’s still competitive. The idea has been used before for kickstarting the Israeli venture capital industry, in the 90s. Here it is suggested to be used as a tool for breaking removing the barrier between innovation and labor policy, nurturing new innovation-for-jobs startup ecosystems.

Example: Nurturing en ecosystem for offering blind people good jobs.

  1. RESEARCH STAGE: Fund research to find out strengths of blind people (already known: superior tactile perception, superior interpretation of sounds, there are certainly more)

    1. DOL’s ticket to ride: Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) invites funders to co-initiate a roundtable of funders: medicine, psychology, economy, sociology, worklife, etc. Includes, for example NIH, HHS, NSF, and so on. (Israeli model–Forum for National Research and Development Infrastructure, TELEM ). The roundtable is an independent complement to the Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals With Disabilities that was created by presidential decision in 2014.

    2. Acceptable deliverables: DOL publishes selected results in its yearly statistics–the competitive skills and talents of blind people, matching professions, etc.

    3. Reliable Funding models: ODEP issues multidisciplinary research grants to consortia studying how blindness can be competitive. Each grant program in collaboration with at least one other high-class funder that already is funding top-level research, e.g. NIH. Proposals are screened jointly by collaborating funders. Granting by consensus between funders. This way ODEP can assure high quality funding.

  2. PROOF OF CONCEPT STAGE: DOL joins the Small Business Innovation Research SBIR program. They fund R&D companies with commercial ideas for increasing the value creation by blind people. This can be, for example, previously funded research groups with ideas to create analytics companies to serve HR and Recruiting industry with real-time data on increasing value-creation of blind people. DOL will earn from funding such small companies, it enables them to procure good labor statistics.

  3. ANGEL STAGE: Incentive programs for alliances between Angels + Venture Philanthropists. Venture Philanthropists give away money, but require to see quantitative results in return, similar to venture investors.

  4. VENTURE STAGE: As described in the discussion about the future of banks, DOL offers venture capitalists to apply for DOL-matching of private investments for creating innovation for jobs seed funds. In the created funds, private investors get the option to buy out DOL’s share within five years.

In reality, this would be for more than just blind people. It would include all special conditions that are considered disabling on the job market today..

David Nordfors

David Nordfors is CEO and co-founder of IIIJ and the chair of the i4j Summit. He was previously co-founder and Executive Director of the Center for Innovation and Communication at Stanford University. He was one of the World Economic Forum Innovation 100 in 2009, and has served on WEF Global Agenda Councils. He serves on advisory boards of the Poynter Institute, Discern Investment Analytics and Black & Veatch. He is an adjunct professor at IDC Herzliya in Israel, a visiting professor at Tallinn University, the Tecnologico de Monterrey, and the Deutsche Welle Akademie. He was advisor to the Director General at VINNOVA, the Swedish Agency for Innovation Systems, where he co-initiated the national Swedish Incubator System and set up a bi-national R&D fund between Sweden and Israel for mobile applications. He was Director of Research Funding of the Knowledge Foundation, KK-stiftelsen, administering an endowment of $300MUSD, building a funding framework underwriting over a hundred innovation initiatives between universities and industry. He initiated and headed the first hearing about the Internet to be held by the Swedish Parliament. He has a Ph.D. in physics from the Uppsala University and did his postdoc in Theoretical Chemistry in Heidelberg, Germany.