Opinion

Washington Is a Hotbed of Innovation

With up to 50,000 high-paying jobs and $5 billion in investments on the line, cities across North America are understandably excited about the prospect of winning Amazon’s bid for “HQ2.” And with three top-20 finalists in the area—Montgomery County, Northern Virginia (Alexandria, Arlington County, Fairfax County and Loudon County), and Washington, DC, proper, the DMV is a top contender.

From my vantage point as head of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) in Arlington, I get a unique glimpse into the groundbreaking tech coming out of our nation’s capital. And I’m constantly impressed by the creativity and ingenuity of our local tech companies. No matter the size or sector, these companies—and the talent behind them—make the most of all the DMV has to offer.

Several studies, including some of our own research, show a tech-friendly attitude at work in the metro area. Both Maryland and Virginia are “Innovation Champions” in CTA’s Innovation Scorecard, meaning these states have policy frameworks that help entrepreneurs and innovators flourish. Both states earn high marks for their robust tech workforce, fast internet speeds, openness to new business models, high number of STEM graduates, and strong job and small business growth.

Last month at CES® 2018—the world’s most influential global technology event—we welcomed three dozen companies from the DC area, representing a wide of array of industries. Among them were Alarm.com, a smart home security system based in Tysons; Fret Zealot, an Arlington-based startup featuring an electric guitar that teaches you how to play through lights that cover the guitar’s frets; and LifeFuels, a personalized drink device from Reston. Every year at CES, companies have a unique opportunity to connect and share ideas with innovative entrepreneurs across the country and the globe, bringing back new concepts, connections, and even new talent to strengthen their work in DC and the metro area.

Federal government leaders and national influencers from the metro area come to CES every year as well. A host of groups—from trade organizations such as the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and nonprofits such as the National Association of Corporate Directors, to federal agencies such as the Patent and Trademark Office and the Federal Aviation Administration—contributed to the conversation, highlighting policies promoting innovation.

Despite the partisan gridlock and grandstanding in Washington, we’re proud to encourage open, engaging dialogue and bipartisan conversation at our events. Our annual CES on the Hill event convenes members of Congress and their staffs to try the latest consumer technology innovations and talk to the small businesses and entrepreneurs behind them. And CTA’s Digital Patriots Dinner celebrates both Democrats and Republicans who work together to champion innovation. In addition to our events, CTA’s Innovation House—the tech industry’s headquarters on Capitol Hill—hosts members of Congress and agency officials, facilitates policy discussions and showcases the latest technologies year-round.

It always takes the combined effort of industry leaders, policymakers, innovators and consumers to help new ideas and innovations emerge. Through keynotes, panels and one-on-one meetings at CES, we give government leaders the opportunity to show the world the positive impact that a meeting of minds can have on both a city and a country.

I’m proud of the innovations my region brings to the stage at CES and to consumers around the world. And with or without the possible arrival of Amazon’s new headquarters, DC, Virginia, and Maryland have all the elements for innovative success—excellent universities, an educated workforce and smart, pro-innovation policymakers.

I look forward to seeing the new innovations, new partnerships, and new communities the DMV’s entrepreneurs and industry leaders will form in the coming year.

Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)TM, the US trade association representing more than 2,200 consumer technology companies, and author of the New York Times best-selling books, Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World’s Most Successful Businesses and The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream. His views are his own. Connect with him on Twitter: @GaryShapiro.

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