Dr Robin Gaster

Dr. Robin Gaster

Mostly, I’m interested in how things work. Not specific things like cars and computers (though I used to fix my cars and I have built computers), but the complex interplay of economics, politics, technology, and culture. I want to know how the world works.

Growing up in London, England,  I learned to drive by delivering to mom and pop stores, worked in a factory (not for long), and was an unlicensed cabbie. To my school’s very considerable surprise, I got into Oxford University, and graduated with a degree in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics.

After a year primarily spent as a professional poker player in London, I took a Masters degree in Philosophy from the University of Kent, before jumping the Atlantic to UC Berkeley in California, for a PhD. There I taught in five departments, won a national award for my dissertation, and got married. Two years as associate professor at the University of Virginia followed, which convinced me that academia is not for me. Instead, I joined the staff of the IMF Board room – a nightmare for any skeptical thinker. But that did bring me to Washington, where I became a research fellow at the Office of Technology Assessment of the US Congress, assessing the impact of the European Common Market on the US economy.

By  1992, I was ready to leave large organizations behind, and founded a consulting company in Washington. Since then, we’ve served a wide range of clients seeking to understand the intersection of technology, innovation, economics, and politics. Clients included thinktanks like Brookings and the Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy; foreign governments (Sweden, Finland); big companies like Houghton Mifflin and Deloitte; firms with interests in specific sectors like education, publishing, and energy; several national governments; and a host of smaller bespoke projects as well. My work was published in Foreign Policy and the Atlantic, and I edited a book on international telecommunications, and also testified before Congress.

In 2004, I was brought into a major project at the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. Over the next decade, I was lead researcher and principal writer on a 13-volume series of reports on the US government’s premier innovation program for small businesses, as well as a major report on the Manufacturing Extension Partnership. Those reports have been the gold standard for program assessment, and were the basis for major Congressional adjustments to those programs. In 2018, I joined the George Washington University Institute of Public Policy as a visiting scholar.

Alongside the consulting business, I’ve been a serial (and not terribly successful) entrepreneur. I started a local online information service in partnership with the Electric Power Research Institute (unfortunately at about the time Google appeared). I was also CEO of a small company that made business software, and partnered with Deloitte and Touche on a seven-figure project to build a cutting edge information service covering the internet and telecoms.

I’ve lived in Silver Spring Maryland with my wife Diana for the past 30 years, and have two adult children. I’ve been a commissioner of the local soccer league for 15 years, as well as a travel team coach with national coaching badges. I believe strongly that building community should be a core value, so I’m coordinator of the Silver Spring Neighborhood Food Project. Most recently, I’ve been appointed to the Montgomery County Policing Advisory Board, (which I helped design and lobbied for), and which I hope will help the police department and community build better bridges.

Through all of this, I remain a fervent (and frequently disappointed) supporter of my original local soccer team in London, Tottenham Hotspur FC. COYS!