Winning the Future through Open Innovation

a Progress Report on Our Open Government Initiative

The White House


President Obama is determined to win the future by out-innovating, out-educating and outbuilding our global competition. In his Strategy for American Innovation, he frames the gove rnment ' s role as (1) investing in the building blocks for innovation (infrastructure, research and development (R&D), and an educated workforce); (2) promoting market-based innovation; and (3) catalyzing breakthroughs for national priorities (e.g., health care, energy, manufacturing, and education).

Key to catalyzing breakthroughs in national priorities is to unlock opportunities for productivity improvement, including the ability to harness information technologies in new and creative ways. A recent McKins ey study estimates that in the healthcare sector alone, the potential benefits from deploying data-harvesting technologies and skills could be $300 billion a year. We invest more in pe t food R&D than we do in R&D for the electric grid.A recent PCAST report estimates that R&D expenditures in K-12 education account for only 0.2% of revenues in comparison to pharmaceutical companies, which invest approximately 15% of their revenues in R&D.

Amidst the execution of our innovation strategy is a mistrust of Wa shington' s ability to get the job done. For too long, the American people have worked harder for less buying power, grown more concerned for the i r job and health security, and lost faith in the next generation's ability to live a better life than the i r own. Lega cy perceptions of Wa shington have reinforced the belief that the government benefits the special interests and the well-connected a t the expense of the American people. The public sector has struggled to harness technology to boost productivity.

Key to addressing these two challenges - the trust deficit and the need for a forward-leaning vision for our economy - is our ability to harness the entrepreneurial spirit of innovators through a portfolio of technology and innovation policies that empha size the government's role as "impatient convener" - one that delivers results in shorter time frames and builds on existing legal and budgetary frameworks.

Over the past two years, the NSTC Committee on Technology has embraced this challenge by advancing policies, platforms, and public/private partnerships that sit at the intersection of our innovation strategy and open government initiative. The pages that follow celebrate ten leading practices organized by four policy levers we hope to scale across the federal agencies:

  • Democratize Government Data: On his first full day in office, President Obama signed a Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, ushering in a new era in which the gap between the American people and their government would close. A signature initiative in that endeavor has been the launch of, a platform that provides public access to high value, machine readable datasets, now numbering in excess of 385,000. It has inspired a global movement - 16 nations, 29 states, 11 cities - towards open data for innovators to commercialize in ways big and small. To build on this movement, the NSTC has established two new working groups - an Interagency Working Group on Digital Data and a Senior Steering Group within NITRD focused on “Big Data,” including scalable algorithms for machine learning.
  • Encourage Market Transparency- The Obama Administration is working with the health, energy, manufacturing, and education sectors (among others) to simplify access to high-value data through engagement in voluntary, consensus standards activities, and, where appropriate, incorporating disclosure as a low cost, high impact regulatory tool. To build on this movement, we’re launching an NSTC Task Force on “Smart Disclosure” to facilitate transparent “marketplaces” that will lower barriers to entry and unleash the creativity of entrepreneurs to compete in the development of new consumer-oriented products and services.
  • Cultivate Innovation Ecosystems The President’s goal to catalyze breakthroughs in national priorities will benefit greatly from the growth of innovation ecosystems seeded with a pipeline of ideas born out of pre-competitive R&D collaboration; a testbed to foster experimentation between problem seekers and solvers; and an ability to scale what works. To support these ecosystems, the Administration has partnered with organizations to engage communities and has launched, a platform that provides public access to agency sponsored challenges and prizes. Through a “Community of Practice” led by OSTP and OMB, we’ve been building the pipeline of ideas, supporting a community of innovators and users, and catalyzing breakthroughs in national priorities capable of fueling new products and services that have the potential to scale.
  • Create Capacity for Innovation To manage the portfolio of policy tools noted above, the Administration has actively recruited a group of technology and innovation leaders with direct reporting relationships to Cabinet Secretaries and agency heads. In turn, these leaders are recruiting 3-5 person “innovation teams” comprised of internal and external talent to tackle identified problems with rapid results. Through the “Innovation Cohort” led by the Presidential Personnel Office, we’ve been surfacing leading practices for open innovation, inspiring the public sector to move toward a culture of possibility.