University and Industry Representatives Urge More R&D Funding

February 16, 2005. A group of industry and research university representatives named the "Task Force on the Future of Innovation" held a news conference in Washington DC to advocate more federal government spending on research and development.

They also released a report [PDF] titled "The Knowledge Economy: Is the United States Losing Its Competitive Edge?" This report is also subtitled "Benchmarks of Our Innovation Future".

See, related story titled "House Science Committee Holds Hearing on R&D Funding" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,079, February 17, 2005.

This report provides data on numbers of graduate students in science and engineering, publication of scientific articles, and patent applications. The report concludes from this data that "the United States can no longer take its supremacy for granted. Nations from Europe to Eastern Asia are on a fast track to pass the United States in scientific excellence and technological innovation."

The thesis of the speakers is that innovation increases national competitiveness, as well as productivity and income. Moreover, innovation can, and should, be accomplished by federal government spending programs.

The speakers included Craig Barrett (CEO of Intel), John Engler (President of the National Association of Manufacturers), Nils Hasselmo (President of the American Association of Universities), Dianna Hicks (Georgia Institute of Technology), and Deborah Smith (President of the Council on Competitiveness).

Barrett, in his opening statement, said that "The competitiveness of the U.S. economy and its technological leadership depend on our companies, universities, and research institutions having access to the world’s leading talent. U.S. employers are being forced to look overseas, as they face shortages of qualified technically trained talent in the U.S. As research goes, so goes the future. If this trend continues, new technologies, and the constellation of support industries surrounding them, will increasingly develop overseas, not here."

He also elaborated later that the Congress should double the National Science Foundation (NSF) budget in the short term. He was also asked what government programs might be cut to provide more funding for research and development. He, and other speakers, provided no responsive answer.

Hasselmo stated that government spending leads to innovation in two ways. First, the funded universities make discoveries. Second, funded universities train people in math, science and engineering, who in turn go on to make discoveries.

He also pointed out that government funding and foreign competition are not the only problems that U.S. universities face. He cited the effect of "stricter visa policies enacted after 9/11".

Smith discussed the Council on Competitiveness' (CC) report [PDF] titled "National Innovation Initiative Report". The CC is a group comprised of representatives from research universities, and large incumbent U.S. corporations. She also asserted, as has the CC, that there exists a "national innovation ecosystem".

Several of the speakers at this event, in pleading for more R&D funding, invoked the fact that the year 2005 is the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein's publication of several of his seminal papers on special relativity, quantum theory of light and Brownian motion. None noted that at the time Einstein was a clerk in a patent office writing on his own time, without the benefit of government R&D funding, or support from any university.