Five corporate executives and seven university leaders discussed with John Holdren, President Barack Obama’s science adviser, and David Kappos, head of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, ways to boost the economy through promoting innovation during an Oct. 5 event in Washington sponsored by Harvard University and the Business Roundtable and hosted by Bloomberg News.
Participants during the day’s series of meetings included Drew Gilpin Faust, president of Harvard University; former Michigan Governor John Engler, president of the Business Roundtable; Albert R. Hunt, executive editor of Bloomberg News; Bill Green, chairman of consulting firm Accenture Plc; Tim Solso, CEO of diesel truck-engine maker Cummins Inc.; Susan Hockfield, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Sally Mason, president of the University of Iowa; Ellen Kullman, CEO of DuPont Co.; James Goodnight, CEO of SAS Institute Inc.; Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; John Hennessy, president of Stanford University; Linda Katehi, chancellor of the University of California-Davis; John Lechleiter, CEO of drugmaker Eli Lilly & Co.; and Teresa Sullivan, president of the University of Virginia. Following is a transcript of the opening breakfast session.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
ELLEN KULLMAN: I’m really glad that we could all be here today, and thank you for joining us at a listening session. So, we’re from the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and we’re here to get your input. I wanted to give a special thanks to Governor Engler and Harvard President Drew Faust for helping us gather this group here together for this discussion.
As a member of the Council, I appreciate you joining us and really look forward to your thoughts and, more importantly, ideas on how we can grow the U.S. economy and drive job growth through innovation, and how you’re assuring that the new U.S. graduates that you’re all producing every year remain competitive for the fully globalized markets that we operate in today. And so your ideas will be valuable to the Council as we prepare our recommendations to the President.
So, I’m pleased to be joined this morning by the president’s science and technology adviser, John Holdren, who many of you know, and Head of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Dave Kappos, who I’d like to congratulate once again for the recent signing of the America Invents Act.
So now, I’d like to turn it over to John for a few remarks and then we can start the dialogue.
JOHN HOLDREN: Well, thank you, Ellen, and thanks to all of you around the table and around the room for being here. This is really an amazing collection of leaders from academia and business, and it’s certainly a pleasure for me to be here with you this morning.
I’m primarily here to listen myself. Ellen says -- you’re here to listen, I’m here to listen. I’m not sure who’s going to be talking, but --.
KULLMAN: Oh, [I’ve] (inaudible - multiple speakers). [Don’t worry, John].
HOLDREN: But I do want to say a few words about the President’s American Innovation Strategy and its relation to all the things that you’re doing and to solicit your thoughts about how we can build additional support for these immensely important initiatives.
I think most of you probably know that the President’s American Innovation Strategy, which he first rolled out in September of 2009 and then in expanded and elaborated form in October of last year, has three major elements.
The first of those elements is investing in the building blocks of innovation, and he and we consider the building blocks to be basic research and the institutions that do it -- our great research universities, our industrial laboratories, our national laboratories. The education more generally, and particularly STEM education -- science, technology, engineering, and math education -- and relevant kinds of infrastructure -- that’s broadband, high speed computing, space infrastructure, energy infrastructure, communications infrastructure, and more.
And the second major cluster of elements is things we need to do to create an economic and policy environment that’s conducive to innovation, particularly, of course, conducive to innovation in the private sector. And that includes elements like making the research and experimentation tax credit permanent; the President’s been trying to do since he came into office. It includes measures to ensure that financing is available for high-tech entrepreneurs and a great deal else.
And the third big cluster of elements is steps that we need to take to help to focus innovation on key national challenges in areas such as health and energy where the public goods dimensions or the externalities dimensions or both, meaning that the private sector alone is not going to do all that society’s interests require to meet those kinds of challenges.
In the domain of research funding, of course, the president initially proposed to double the budgets of several of the most important science agencies -- the National Science Foundation, the DOE Office of Science, the [NIF] Laboratories over the period of a decade. We’ve now been knocked off of that trajectory by the current budget circumstances.
If the president’s FY 2012 budget proposal would actually be passed by Congress, we’d be back on that trajectory, but I think we all know that’s now going to happen. We’re going to be somewhat below it, but we really would like to get back on it.
The president has made very clear that although he understands the need to reduce the deficit, to reduce the debt, he doesn’t want to balance the budget on the backs of research or education or infrastructure. And so we are going to do everything we can to try to get back on that trajectory of boosting the government’s investments in basic research.
The president also in that 2012 budget proposed big increases in research in clean energy, big increases in research and development supporting advanced manufacturing. In June, of course, he unveiled the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership. It was actually a recommendation of the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, which I have the privilege of co-chairing with Eric Lander. That partnership is being co- chaired by Susan Hockfield. Thank you for that, Susan. Among your many public services, that’s a very important one.
In education, I think everybody knows what a priority the president has made of STEM education. He has frequently said that he thinks the single most important thing we can do for the future of our country is to lift our game in science, technology, engineering, and math education.
At the same time, we are constantly celebrating the successes of that system, which we see in the national winners of the Intel Science Competition, the Google Science Competition. We had a White House Science Fair just about a year ago where we had the winners of 36 different national competitions in science, math, engineering, robotics, city and regional planning -- an unbelievable event. Eighteen of them were invited to bring their projects, their posters, their demonstrations into the Jefferson State Dining Room.
The president was supposed to spend 10 minutes with the students in the Jefferson State Dining Room. He spent nearly an hour, to the dismay of his schedulers. The Cabinet members, the mentors, the parents were all waiting in the East Room and waiting and waiting and waiting.
The president was on the floor with the kids and their robots, talking to the 16-year-old who had developed a new cancer therapy that was light activated and nanoparticle facilitated. Unbelievable stuff. Harold Varmus came in, spent 10 minutes talking to the 16-year-old young woman and basically offered her a job at the National Cancer Institute.
But we really believe it when we talk about the importance of STEM education. One of the president’s initiatives is a plan to develop 100,000 new high-caliber science and math teachers over the next decade. We’ve got over 100 CEOs in the Change the Equation initiative, which is aimed at scaling up successful STEM education efforts in 100 different locations. So that is an immensely important ingredient of what we’re doing.
The president also supports expanding high skill immigration as part of wider immigration reform. He has said as part of his plan to create a 21st century immigration system that we ought to be stapling a diploma to every advanced degree in STEM fields that foreign students get in US universities. I had heard him say that privately on a number of occasions, but it is now a part of the public official proposal of the president. I love it. I think that’s exactly right.
We invest an enormous amount in providing first-class graduate education in STEM fields to foreign students. Some of them want to go back to their countries, and that’s fine, too. That’s a contribution to global well being. But those who want to stay here, we need to make it easy for them to stay here and not hard.
In order to create the environment we need for private- sector investment, I’ve already mentioned the research and experimentation tax credit. The president has also proposed eliminating the capital gains tax on long-term investments in small businesses. Of course, he’s proposed that we try to double U.S. exports. And we have the Startup America initiative, which is designed to facilitate high-tech entrepreneurship.
Obviously, a lot of the proposals that the president has made, that the administration has made, require the support of the Congress. There’s some things we can do with executive action, and we’re trying to do those, but we do need support from the Congress.
And one of the things I’d be interested in hearing from folks in this group is any thoughts you have about how we can do better at building bipartisan support for these initiatives, which really shouldn’t be partisan matters. That is, building our economy, building our security, improving the health of the American people. These are really all issues that should not be partisan at all. And so I’m hoping that we can figure out how to do better in building the support in Congress that we’re going to need.
I will stop with that. Thank you for the opportunity to be here, and now I’ll be doing some listening.
KULLMAN: Great. Thank you, John.
Connecting science to the marketplace is a critical engine -- innovation is a critical engine for the economy. And leading a company like DuPont, I’m really passionate about science. We spend $1.7 billion a year in research and development. We partner with universities. We partner around the world in our own laboratories and with customers to really try to deliver against that promise. And STEM education is a critical component of that.
I’m just a tremendous advocate for getting more and more young kids today into science. Actually, I like the E part -- the engineering part -- but that’s probably because of my background.
Chuck Vest, who heads the National Academy of Engineering, and I partnered on something called Change the Conversation. When we do the research, we see that young kids and their parents today have no idea what careers in engineering or math and science could really be. And they’re tremendous careers, as we all know. And here we have gathered just a tremendous force in the university side that really produced a tremendous amount of our science and engineering technology and math young people of today.
So I think your part in this is absolutely critical. And I’m really looking forward to getting into the conversation about it, so let’s start with President Faust from Harvard around, really, that academic institutions, that connection to the U.S. innovation engine.
DREW FAUST: Thank you, Ellen, and thank you for bringing us together for this breakfast. We hope today to do something of what you just described. The Change the Conversation notion is one that’s at the heart of our gathering because we feel that universities and business have a link together in the kind of innovation chain which is at the core of how we are going to create growth in the American economy, and also, how we project our nation into the future.
When I think about universities and what they represent, it seems to me that we are focused on building the future. We build the educational tools to create the students who are going to claim the future and shape the future, and we create the discoveries that also will transform the world in which we live.
So, how do we relate that to other institutions in society in a more effective way? How do we work together better with business to make that innovation change, that process smoother? And how do we explain to a wider public that this is the case and that we have a bipartisan agenda here, as you said, John, in trying to move this forward.
In our conversations today we’re going to focus on three areas of this. The first we have called science-friendly immigration policy. And by that, we might use another term, innovation-friendly immigration policy.
John, you spoke about the Intel science contest. Seventy percent of the winners this year were children of immigrants. That says a huge amount just in itself. How can we make sure that we take advantage of the greatest talent available to us and prepare it to have an impact on our society?
Secondly, we’re going to talk about research and development and the kinds of policies that will link us better together -- universities and business. And also, the ways in which we can explain our common and shared concerns across sectors of American society, across sectors of the American economy, and across parties in the political atmosphere.
And then third, we’re going to talk about patent policy, recent changes, the implications, how we understand our competitive stance, and how each of our sectors -- business and universities -- can contribute to that.
So I hope that by the end of today we will have in some ways changed our own conversation so that we can talk more forcefully and understand more clearly our mutualities in business and in universities so that we can be the innovation lobby that I think America needs in order to articulate these urgent issues that we confront.
So, thank you for bringing us together this morning to get us started.
KULLMAN: That’s great. Thank you very much.
Just before we get started opening it up, I’d like to maybe ask Dave to give maybe a couple of minutes on the importance of the patent reform and the innovation engine while we have him here. I think it’s always good to get that view, very exciting, about the passing of the bill and the signing of the bill.
DAVID KAPPOS: Well, sure. Thank you very much, Ellen, and thanks for bringing this group together. It’s quite a pleasure to be able to talk about intellectual property with a bunch of folks that run some of our nation’s most successful and important innovation institutions, whether they be companies or great universities.
So indeed, just a few weeks ago, culminating an effort that some would say has stretched back over 150 years and others would count at least a few decades, the President of the United States signed into law sweeping changes to our nation’s patent system; changes that I think actually relaunch the United States as the world’s leader in innovation policy and indeed make us the only country in the world that has a truly 21st century patent system.
And on the reason I say that is because our patent system now has leapfrogged those of all other countries, is the first and the only one to champion this intersection that Drew is talking about between universities principally and the business sector by creating a collaboration-friendly patent system and innovation-friendly patent system, an inventor-friendly patent system that will, I believe, really enable science to transfer quickly and effectively from a laboratory to the marketplace and create many, many U.S. jobs and really valuable U.S. jobs going forward.
So I won’t try and go through all of the details, but I will say I believe that the U.S. has undergone a transformative change in this overall intellectual property policy, led by this patent reform legislation. We have lots to do to implement it now, but we’ll talk about that later in our discussion this morning.
I believe the implementation is the responsibility of all of us around this table. We can’t do it alone in the United States Patent and Trademark Office or even with all of our partners in the government. We will do it together as an American people and make this legislation successful in its implementation. Thanks, Ellen.
KULLMAN: Thanks, Dave. And I know we can always count on you for a passionate plea for us all to work together [on this]. You’ve made great progress in the office -- the Patent and Trademark Office has made great progress over the last few years, and we’ll look forward to seeing that continue.
So that kind of sets up the dialogue. You hear about what the government is doing and focused on from John in the connection of innovation to the economy and the importance of education and innovation. Now, we’d just like to open it up.
And, as you know, we’re from the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, going to put forward a plan to the President, and love your input into things that you think are important things that we really can do to help move the ball. Because it’s just not a short-term problem, it’s short-term, mid-term, and long-term. And I think the education system really has an important part in that. Freeman?
FREEMAN HRABOWSKI: All right. Yes. I’ve been thinking about the language we might use to have the public understanding the issues that we have as we think about the importance of having people from other countries continuing to come here.
And I’ve said this before, that I really do believe that being able to document success stories -- people listen to stories where they’re talking about people who come to this country and have been able to start companies or looking at the ways in which kids who have parents from other countries come in and do so well. People like hearing those stories because those stories become American stories.
And so somehow, as we talk about innovation, I think it’s going to be important to think about the clear language that we can use that will document what has worked, but that can also help us to inspire families, American families.
You see, I think it’s not one or the other. We want to make sure we talk about attracting the best brainpower from anywhere in the world while working to support and develop brainpower here. It’s not one or the other, and we just need to think about how to develop that language. That’s the one point.
And the other point is I really do want to make sure we talk a lot about small companies as we think about patent law and we think about advantages sometimes that large corporations have and ways that we can connect larger and smaller companies together.
We’re working with Northrop Grumman and a variety of startups in cyber security, and Northrop Grumman is giving considerable support to those companies, wanting to look at how they use innovation and creativity that can inform what they do, quite frankly, and as they connect them to customers. And so there should be ways of collaboration across companies, larger and smaller companies, with universities, and with national agencies. Two points.
SALLY MASON: I’d like to elaborate just a little bit on what Freeman was saying, particularly with regard to partnerships, because I think partnerships have become key to virtually everything we do at universities and I think also true in the corporate sector as well. And there’s some great examples.
And again, coming back to the story idea, telling the stories of some of these wonderful examples, I was just commenting to John, on my left here, that when I was at Purdue we had a wonderful opportunity working with Eli Lilly to take advantage of some of the intellectual property that they had that they weren’t using and exploiting at that point in time and that we could use at Purdue to literally build some companies around, internal companies, but nevertheless, one that would ultimately benefit, in the drug world, multi-drug resistant tuberculosis that was rampant in other parts of the world. Not something that Lilly could devote a lot of time and effort to, but something that certainly the university, Purdue University, could at that time, a tremendous partnership.
And I would use another example, in Iowa, that we’re doing right now that I’m very excited about because it involves building a partnership to develop STEM education in quite a different way. And the partnership is the University of Iowa, Kirkwood Community College, which is our local community college, and the Iowa City School District.
These three unlikely partners got together and said, “It’s time to build a school, a STEM school. And it’s time to build a STEM school locally that would allow the talent base locally to really focus on STEM education, and STEM education in a different way than was being done in the local high schools and middle schools in the area.”
It’s an exciting partnership. And, interestingly enough, politically it was supported across-the-board. Two bond initiatives in two different communities had to be passed to allow us to build the facility on our research park, a school that would, in fact, accomplish this goal for us. And the bonding issue did pass by 70 percent in one community, 80 percent in another community.
In the political arena these days, to get that kind of support, especially for a bond initiative, I think, is phenomenal, but it says from that community what’s important. And what’s important is first of all trying not to duplicate expensive infrastructure, but to do it in a way that’s different, to do it with a partnership that allows us to develop in new and creative ways, innovative ways.
JOHN HENNESSY: I think we’ve touched on the key issue that innovation is going to play in creating jobs in the U.S. But I think at the same time we have to realize that the competition is going up significantly and we’re going to face a competition for the very best people that’s increasingly global. We’re going to face a situation where the amount of money being poured into R&D outside the U.S. goes up quickly.
And we have to get our act together and realize that if the U.S. is going to continue to be the leader in innovation in science and technology, we’re going to have to step it up. We’re going to increase the amount, I think, as John Holdren said. Our funding of basic research is going to have to be there. And it’s a long-term commitment and we can’t, in this budget process, sacrifice long-term economic growth for the country in return for a short-term fix, and a relatively small piece of the budget overall.
I think at the same time, trying to address, keeping great immigrants who come here for graduate degrees, while we also raise our own sites with respect to our students going into science and engineering disciplines, encourage them early.
Obviously, we have to address K-12. Too many students arrive at college not qualified to major in science, engineering. And we have to address that if we’re going to continue to be in a leadership position, and I think that ties to the country’s entire innovation agenda and our future as a economically great place to be.
SUSAN HOCKFIELD: So just to follow on John’s point with a little bit of data, nationally we graduate -- 15 percent of our bachelor’s degrees in the United States are in engineering or the natural sciences, and that places us 16th, or there are about 16 countries ahead of us in Europe and Asia in terms of the percentage of 24-year-olds who have a natural science or engineering degree. This does not position us to win in an innovation-based economy.
But in terms of changing the conversation and creating a bipartisan environment, I’ll tell you just a terrifying story that I heard. A friend of mine had a son who was headed off to college, and this was a young man who was very good in science and math. And my friend asked him whether he might think about studying engineering or science in college and he said, “Why would I do that, Dad? Everything’s already been invented.”
And to have that coming out the mouth of an American kid, where we are the land of innovation and invention, is a startling comment about how our young people -- some of our young people -- perceive the world. And the idea of changing their view from it being okay to be a spectator and a consumer to really wanting to be the inventor and the innovator, the people who are going to actually make that future different from today, I think, is a very important conversation to be had in America.
And so sometimes I talk about America suffering from a deficit that we don’t see on the headlines of the newspaper every morning, but it’s an ambition deficit. It’s an idea that the kids in America need to pick up those tools that we have provided in such large number and say, “I’m going to be the person who invents the next new medical device that’s going to save lives,” or, “I’m going to be in the person who’s going to invent the next Google” or whatever the thing is.
And I would just attach that to a startling -- and those of us in higher education, a tendency to imagine that you can start a company out of nothing. And I was on a panel -- a different news organization was sponsoring the panel and the moderate asked me, “Well, why would any entrepreneur go to college? Because, you know, of course, you can just start up your company out of your high school -- the bedroom at your parent’s house when you’re in high school.”
And I pointed out that many of the innovations in companies and innovators that spin out of MIT, in their companies and in their inventions, they’re using chemistry and physics and all kinds of -- engineering that you just don’t get in a high school curriculum.
So this sense that the lack of appreciation, [a,] that there is a fabulous future yet to invent and you can do it. But to do that well, you’re going to need the most rigorous education, and again, building up our base of young people who have a strong enough background in science, engineering, mathematics to really take the tools of the world and create something new for the future.
TERESA SULLIVAN: And that young entrepreneur might benefit from a couple of classes in economics as well. And, of course, the advantage of the university is that you have the exposure to all of this.
I think America’s research universities are changing the conversation. Many of us now have a kind of a vertically integrated approach in which even first-year students are exposed to ideas about entrepreneurship, innovation, and are encouraged to combine not only traditional science courses but also the behavioral social sciences, a good background in economics, and knowledge of business, which they really need, I think, to be successful.
If you look at many of our universities today, you’ll find they have an economic ecostructure around them. Individual students being encouraged to be entrepreneurs, small companies that have been started up by the faculty and graduate students, and good partnerships with some of America’s leading corporations or international corporations.
So that students get an exposure to a whole range of these things while still being grounded in a broad set of curricular offerings, which I think is important for them because the innovations don’t just come in one discipline. It’s important for them to have the breadth to see where else it could come from.
KULLMAN: Great. Bill?
BILL GREEN: Yes. If you stand back and I had a chance to do the work with the national academies at looking at our research institutions, we have a crisis in confidence and credibility in this country. And one of the last sets of institutions people believe in are the institutions that got us where we are today, which is our national research institutions.
And I think they’re underutilized; I think they’re under- merchandised; I don’t think we tell the stories enough; I don’t think we get out there and tackle some of the tough issues. And I think there’s a profound opportunity to turn this national asset that you couldn’t recreate today if you tried to get better focused on some of the issues of today.
I think secondly, this notion -- I liked Sally’s story about the community colleges because we do have, in 11.5 million people in community colleges, many of them first-generation immigrant populations, we have tremendous assets out there, tremendous capability just looking for an opportunity to get in the game.
And so I would really like to see our national research institutions adopt some part of that ecosystem. Because at the end of the day at that stage, it’s not education, it’s inspiration that changes people’s lives and gets them lined up to want to have careers in science, technology, and engineering.
And then the last thing, I would just not miss the chance to ask John, when we say immigration or when we say innovation- friendly immigration policy and we add the words as part of broad immigration reform, we get dead on arrival.
And so as the advisor to the president, when you get him in there, and I don’t know whether it’s a cup of coffee or in a headlock, do you articulate the imperative -- I think to John’s point and others -- of --. Businesses learned in this last downturn to take smaller bites. And so I would just ask you if we could take a smaller bite then look at the things to deal with this.
HOLDREN: I should say I am aware of that and I probably shouldn’t have thrown the boilerplate phrase as part of [wider] immigration reform in there. I’m aware of it and the President is aware of it, and we would love to get the high-tech parts done if we can.
GREEN: OK. Because you asked for our help -
GREEN: Yes. I appreciate it.
GREEN: -- and so I think that’s something we could [normalize].
JOHN LECHLEITER: I think that despite, maybe, some pessimism and some deep concerns that have been expressed, there’s tremendous opportunity that really sits in front of us today. We see it in the life sciences business. The explosion of knowledge and the availability of news tools, I think, offers tremendous promise for new cures, for new prevention strategies, for new treatments. They’re not only sort of higher quality but more cost effective as well.
So the opportunity has never been greater than it is, but I think we also recognize as one company, we operate in an ecosystem -- and I’ve talked a lot about this -- for us to be successful. These various other factors have to be in place, and they include the three that we’re focused on today.
Immigration. It takes us five years on average to get a green card for somebody we hire, a non-U.S.-born person from Harvard. We’ve got to fix that. We need to continue to try to see that the R&D tax credit becomes permanent, at least predictable, instead of having this annual year-end dance around wondering if it’s going to make it through or not. Tax policy in general needs to be looked at.
We have to -- with the America Invents Act, we’ve taken a giant step forward, but patent enforcement for U.S. companies around the world remains a huge issue and we need to see that this is reflected in trade agreements, and that the problem of counterfeiting, the appropriation of intellectual property, is dealt with as well.
There’s a couple of other things that I would just mention because you asked for inputs and ideas. I think one is regulation. I think we need to have appropriate -- all the regulation that’s appropriate and no more in terms of enabling businesses to operate and flourish, partnerships between businesses and universities to be able to function.
And lastly, we need to make sure that we clear a path for markets to operate. Investors won’t take the enormous risks that many of our businesses entail without understanding that there can be a reward at the end. We need to try to remove whatever we can that’s artificial about that market setting and enable those systems to work; that will encourage investment and ultimately result in innovation.
TIM SOLSO: I have -- I share some of John’s optimism. We’re a classic industrial, Midwest company and we’re having the best year in the history of the company, followed last year, which was the best year in the history of our company.
And even if you think of diesel technology and related components as old, technology drives our business. And what drives that technology is regulation. And where it’s a nice thing to bash the EPA, we think they’ve done a good job. They’ve laid out where they’re going over a 10-year period of time.
While we may argue about how fast we move, the fact is that we’ve developed technologies that have met emissions requirements here and has opened markets in other places because we have that technology and local engine manufacturers don’t. So, in a sense, we get a competitive advantage from that. So I argue [with the same way] is that responsible regulation is a good thing.
We need to hire in the next five years 7,000 engineers - 7,000. And the way we have to do that is to partner with the universities. We’re particularly close with Purdue because they happen to have a great engineering program and they’re close by. But these private/public partnerships, getting the universities involved, investing that way is a way that I think we can do well.
The other thing is that now 60 percent of our employees are outside the United States. We have to be able to move them from one location to another quickly. We have to be able to hire high-skilled people from other countries quickly to move. And if we can’t do that, those - as your point - is those people go someplace else, OK? And if they go someplace else, we end up competing with them.
So I think there’s a lot of good news. I know that it’s popular to talk about how bad business is right now, but there’s some manufacturing companies that are doing well [to be expanded].
KULLMAN: I think, Tim, your point about the number of engineers that you’re going to need over the next few years, I take a look at our -- DuPont’s numbers. We’ll be hiring thousands of engineers, agronomists, biologists -- all the sciences -- with the breadth of our company.
And there is -- a lot of you touched on the -- Susan, where’s the ambition coming from from our youth? In my generation, we had the space program. When I was in grade school, we used to be very excited about being able to watch the rocket take off and can we be getting to the moon, right? That really launched a large number of us going into sciences back in the ‘60s and the ‘70s.
And so how can we create that sense of purpose, that sense of ambition again? What can universities do to help that K-12 that Sally was talking about? Freeman?
HRABOWSKI: One of the reasons my state is doing well right now in many ways and is supporting [public education] in a way that a lot of states are not is that we’ve been able as a university system of Maryland, not just my own campus, to rethink how we are doing business.
One of the statistics that few Americans appreciate [is that they don’t really] understand is that, quite frankly, the majority of Americans who begin in science and engineering do not graduate in science and engineering. I just [shared] the national academy’s report on under-representation, and it goes well beyond people of color.
In general, only two-thirds -- only one-third of American students who begin at the bachelor’s level with the intention of majoring in science and engineering actually graduate in science and engineering. And the stunning statistic is sometimes the more prepared -- the better prepared the student is, the less likely that student will graduate in science and engineering.
And so one of the things we need to be doing -- and it is happening across the country in different places, I know it is in my state and at UMBC -- is that we need to use some our innovative thinking to rethink how we offer science and engineering, how we teach and learn in the undergraduate experiences. Course redesign, professional development, use of collaboration, more technology -- these things will be more important than ever.
In other words, there are more students than we may think who are interested in science and engineering and, in many cases, who’ve done well in AP courses. They simply change their majors. And we -- I think -- what has happened in our state is that I think legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, have seen us saying to ourselves, “Let’s look in the mirror at ourselves. That it’s not just K through 12. We don’t want to just point fingers. What are the things we can do as a university, as a university system, to improve the way we teach in order to ensure better learning in our institutions?”
FAUST: I’m struck in this conversation at the word ecosystem as that’s come up in a number of contexts. And on one level we’re talking about an international ecosystem of innovation, but many of you have spoken about individual kinds of connections -- yours with the community college and the K-12 education near the University of Iowa, other kinds of ecosystems that you, [Terri], were talking about, connecting universities with other kinds of partnerships.
And I wonder if this relates in some ways, Freeman, to what you began with, which is how do you imagine yourself in a different place? How do you tell your own story as someone aspiring to ambition and to having an impact in these realms? And I think a lot of it happens in those kind of ecosystems that we as universities create.
John is famous for his ecosystem in the Silicon Valley. We have our ecosystem in life sciences and beyond in Boston. You all are creating systems around your particular endeavors, and isn’t that what gets people to think there are possibilities here? “I can be part of this. I can imagine myself beyond my own self into a university, a company, into the world.” And how can we use those better? Because we all seem to be focused on how we operate within them.
KULLMAN: I tell you, we could go on for hours and we have another session coming up later, but I want to thank you for the input you’ve given us. And I want to ask you to keep focusing on the challenge, because we in industry do need science, engineering, math, and technology. Everywhere I go, small companies, large companies, jobs are open today and it’s really important we get the kids educated and the immigration policy and things like that changed so that we can really have a very robust innovation system here in the United States.
And with that, I’d like to turn it back over to John. Any closing comments or thoughts?
HOLDREN: Just to say thank you again. Some of you will have noticed I took abundant notes on these comments, very useful set of comments.
I did want to say, in reaction to Freeman’s last point, that we are very much focused in PCAST on the problem you mentioned of losing people to science and engineering fields once they start college. And we have a study that will shortly coming out, a report for the president on what we can do to improve science, math, and engineering education in the first two college years where a lot of that happens.
I also wanted to stress a theme that a number of you mentioned, that’s one of the president’s major themes in this domain, which is the crucial importance of partnerships across sectors, across the branches of government, public, private, philanthropic.
One I didn’t mention, which has been quite successful, is Educate to Innovate, which is a partnership among the government, the philanthropic sector, the private sector, which is precisely aimed at a point, Ellen, I think you made, which is that kids in K through 12 typically don’t really recognize the array of interesting and rewarding careers that are available in science and math and engineering.
And so part of Educate to Innovate is companies, universities, national labs having their scientists go into the classroom with teachers in the middle school and high school level and not only enrich the experience from the standpoint of hands-on science and math activities and experiments, but serve as role models about the amazing careers that out there for kids who do this. And that is a partnership that has $700 million in funding that come from the business sector, the academic sector, the philanthropic sector, not taxpayer money.
So we think the notion of partnerships is absolutely critical. It’s well represented around this table. So again, thank you.
KULLMAN: Great. Thank you all very much.
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