With the venture capital and corporate models of tech and biotech funding crumbling under the weight of the financial crisis, Duane Roth is proposing that another group step up to the plate to fund innovation — the United States taxpayers.

Roth, the CEO of Connect, a local tech and biotech industry association, has for awhile been talking about coming up with a new solution for broken funding models. On Friday he gave Xconomy’s Bruce Bigelow some specifics.

As Bigelow reported, Roth feels that the federal government is the best source for early-stage financing, and that the way to get the government money to flow to San Diego is to form local research institutes around specific technologies.

Roth has laid out a list of initiatives that would serve to accomplish his larger goal. He says it will take about $10 million to accomplish the initiatives, and has created a new vice president position at Connect to oversee them.

Here they are:

  • Pursue additional federal funding, along with other funding sources, to spur research in specific fields and as an alternative early stage funding model to address what Roth calls the “valley of death” — the gap between invention and early-stage commercialization.
  • Appoint a full-time lobbyist in Washington D.C. to represent San Diego and advocate for research funding.
  • Support the creation of new research institutes in San Diego, and help to recruit elite scientists. For example, Roth says Connect could help researchers’ spouses find jobs in the region.
  • Create a regional a seed fund loan program as well as a program to help local researchers use patents to protect their discoveries until private resources become available.
  • Promote the development of San Diego technology clusters in specific fields, including wireless health, cyber security, autonomous robotics, contract services, and sports innovation.

Roth’s ideas should be of particular interest those of you who have followed our coverage of the funding crisis. In addition to chronicling the broken venture capital model, we have written about the resurgence of angel investors, as well as alternative funding models.

What do you think about Roth’s ideas? E-mail me your thoughts at david.washburn@voiceofsandiego.org.


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