Investing in Infrastructure Means Investing in Innovation – Katherine Bell – Harvard Business Review

An important thing to remember as we think about spending infrastructure dollars is not to spread it across the country like peanut butter. People often just focus on needing to improve the roads. OK, yeah, there are too many potholes in the roads, but that’s not the big idea here. The roads in this country aren’t the worst in the world. We need to focus on bigger technologies that are really going to create jobs and make this country competitive over the next 20 to 25 years.

One way to make that happen is public/private partnerships. Let me give you an example. We have hundreds of military bases in the U.S., and they are in disrepair. The buildings are old and their energy efficiency is poor. They’re looking at putting smart micro grids in to handle their own power generation. Micro grids could be solar, could be gas, and could be different things. When you take a look at the numbers, these things are basically self-funding. In other words, the government doesn’t have to make the investment. It can get private money from companies like Siemens who will do what we call performance contracting. We’ll pay to modernize the military’s grid and share the savings with the federal government. We can do the same thing with rail systems, highways, universities, data centers. We can use a lot of private money to drive this. The rest of the world is doing this in a big, big way. We need to make it easier to do here.

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