Closing Critical Gaps from Lab to Market

Author: Phil Weilerstein, Shaheen Mamawala, and Heath Naquin


Closing critical gaps across the interconnected ecosystem that supports discoveries in science and technology (S&T), developing discoveries into promising inventions, and commercializing inventions into thriving businesses should be of top priority for federal policymakers. In brief,  intentional focus and dedicating resources to discovery and commercialization of inventions ensures that the United States maintains and expands its economic vitality, its global leadership in S&T innovation, and its strategic entrepreneurial advantages. This proposal presents a rationale and vision for the launch and deployment of a national plan—called Innovate the Future: The American Inventors Initiative—to provide comprehensive support and acceleration paths for postdoctoral researchers, early-stage entrepreneurs, and S&T investors, in order to advance domestic economic growth.

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About the Authors

Phil Weilerstein is chief executive of VentureWell. From the beginning, Phil’s focus for VentureWell has been to help bring socially beneficial applications of STEM inventions to market. He’s accomplished this goal by designing and overseeing programs that encourage curricular innovation and student venture creation, provide resources for faculty and student entrepreneurs, and develop community through conferences and workshops for faculty and students. Phil attended the University of Massachusetts where he was a co-founder of a biotechnology company developing naturally occurring pest control products. He is a Founder and Past Chair of the ASEE Entrepreneurship Division, and a recipient of the 2008 Price Foundation Innovative Entrepreneurship Educators Award, the 2014 Engineering Entrepreneurship Pioneers Award from ASEE, and the 2016 Deshpande Symposium Award for Outstanding Contributions to Advancing Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education.

Shaheen Mamawala is senior development officer at VentureWell, overseeing the design and implementation of new strategic projects, the development of funding strategies, and the creation of learning products across VentureWell’s programmatic areas. She enthusiastically embraces the role of intrapreneur, and most recently applied her passion for creating positive social change through cross-disciplinary collaboration as Health Policy Advisor to the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services at the NYC Mayor’s Office. Shaheen is the original project director for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Leadership Network and earned a BA from The College of New Jersey and an MPA from City University of New York – Baruch College.

Heath Naquin is the senior global and government liaison officer at VentureWell. He works on the identification and development of new opportunities and initiatives to support our strategic program goals, with a particular focus on our global and federal funders and partners. As part of this role, he leads the Global Innovation in Science and Technology (GIST) initiative on behalf of the U.S. Department of State and advises the National Science Foundation’s Industry & University Cooperative Research Center (IUCRC) program. Prior to joining VentureWell, Heath spent nearly 20 years working in the global startup, innovation, and entrepreneurship field. Most recently, he was Executive Director for the Southwest I-Corps Node at the University of Texas at Austin. Heath holds a BBA from St. Edwards University, an MS in Technology Commercialization from the University of Texas at Austin, is a Certified NSF I-Corps instructor and maintains a PMP designation.