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May 31, 2006


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I agree completely with today's commentary (as I do with at least 90% of Jack's commentaries). As a scientist, inventor and entrepreneurial type, I feel that it is only the government and perhaps a few far-sighted angel investors (and there not enough of these available either) that can fuel the fires of invention and discovery; particularly the grander and riskier types of ventures that might actually lead to the creation of whole new technology sectors (i.e. space travel - and not just the kind that goes straight up for 60 miles, then falls back down like a dead duck). Yes, we need government to support such grand visions (but it needs to be good government too).

However, I do not agree with Jack's rather pessimistic assessment (and seeming resignation) that there will probably never be any Ford's again (or at least no financial support for such people). I have not, altogether, given up hope that it is still possible for, even, only one or two people with vision, imagination, and tenacity, to come up with the startling "next new thing" that could form the basis for an entire industry. Remember, it was also said at the end of the 19'Th century that there was nothing more of great significance to discover! I am confident that there will continue be individual innovators for centuries to come - there have to be; without them there would, really, be no such thing as creativity.

On the other hand, I have to admit that if things don't start picking up significantly in Michigan (R&D wise), I may have to join my many colleagues who already left the state many years ago and have done very well by doing so. Hopefully the 21'st century fund will help significantly towards this goal. It will probably need to be at least doubled though (as Governor Granholm had originally proposed), in order to really get the engine of innovation going. If she is re-elected maybe she can continue to increase this, rather, nominal support for early stage new technology.

On a related note, there is a very interesting and fairly comprehensive analysis of the connection between invention and later product development (and the factors that can hinder it) at the federal government site www.atp.nist.gov/eao/gcr02-841/gcr02-841.pdf. In part of this report, the widely held misconception that it is venture capitalists that take on most of the risks in the early stages of new technology development is completely debunked.

G. Sachs

excellent points. Thank you

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