White House puts spotlight on inventors

The White House is looking to embrace garage tinkerers and inventors with its first ever “maker faire” on Wednesday, in an event intended to showcase Americans who have parlayed their arts, crafts, and home-brew inventions into careers and companies.

As part of the event, some 13 federal agencies and private companies will announce a new collection of support services that will help so-called “makers” capitalize on their creations.

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The suite of services will include expanded access to federal start-up grants, introductions to major retailers and manufacturers, and business mentoring and training.

According to the White House, President Obama will get a chance to observe some promising new inventions, including 3-D printed pancakes.

The White House wouldn’t say what other creations would be featured at the event, but promised a slew of public and private commitments to help foster entrepreneurs. 

The National Institute of Science and Technology, for instance, will help individuals who sell their wares on websites like Etsy and Kickstarter connect with manufacturers who may be able to help scale up their businesses. NIST will also offer grants to help develop the manufacturing of their products, in turn enabling their companies to expand.

The Small Business Administration is also debuting a $2.5 million program encouraging communities to launch startup accelerators that give budding companies workspace as they develop new companies and products. The SBA will also hold a training event designed to help small business suppliers tackle common challenges, including access to markets and capital.

And the Patent Office plans to launch a customized hotline to help inventors who need advice on how to navigate the intellectual property system.

Obama will also announce a series of private-sector commitments intended to bolster U.S. inventors, including some 1,500 3D printers that will be provided by 3D systems, the Coca-Cola Company, and rapper will.i.am.

Disney has pledged $20 million in additional resources, and Intel is expanding a network that provides students with access to media labs.

At an event on manufacturing Tuesday in Pittsburgh, Obama said the event was intended to “highlight some of the tremendous work that's already being done out there.”

“In the past, that kind of innovation and entrepreneurship has been a driver of our economy, but there are a lot of people with good ideas who've had difficulty getting started because getting the equipment they needed in order to get started was often cost- prohibitive,” Obama said. “Technology allows us to lower those costs. Now we've got to make sure that we are taking advantage of these new opportunities.”

 

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