Visas for Jobs

I was working on this a while back and thought I would post it while I am trying to get my old blog posts imported into WordPress.

There was an opinion column in the Wall Street Journal a while back that discussed the idea of giving out temporary work visas to entrepreneurs that want to come to the USA and try to start businesses. A bi-partisan bill was introduced by John Kerry and Richard Lugar to do this. We should always let talented, highly motivated people come to the USA. However, if the Senators are serious about helping start-ups in order to stimulate job creation, they should start by expanding and modifying the existing domestic programs.

We are a nation of innovators. Let’s try utilizing our existing programs to spur domestic innovation by small businesses.

The Fed has operated the SBIR program for quite a few years. The impetus behind the SBIR program was that the government realized that 80% of the innovation was accomplished by 20% of the companies. The program was started to encourage (and provide financial assistance to) small businesses to take on research and development activities.

The SBIR program could (and should) be used to spur job creation. Some suggestions:

  • Increase funding for the program. Add a few extra billion for the program and make it renewable annually.
  • Make the solicitations more general. Most of the federal agencies’ solicitations are focused. This is understandable, they have specific problems that they need solutions for. However, by broadening the scope of the solicitations more small businesses could take advantage of (i.e. be funded by) the program.
  • There are many would be entrepreneurs that have innovative ideas but can not quit their day jobs without some guarantee of funding (i.e. income). The SBIR program currently requires a small business to be established in order to be eligible to submit for funding. Modify the requirement that the small business exist at the time of submission so that individuals can develop and submit proposals under an agreement that a small business will be established one month prior to award and the PIs primary employment will be with the small business. This small change would be the push that many individuals need to quit their day job and get started.

Additionally, the vast majority of engineers are required to sign draconian agreements with their employers, surrendering all rights to any works developed both on and off the clock. Make it illegal for employers to “own” engineers outside of established work hours.

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