John H. Gibbons
Assistant to the President for Science and Technology
California and the Future of American Innovation
Challenges for Universities, Industry and
University of California, San Diego
The Council on Competitiveness
NAS Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable
February 24, 1997
San Diego, California
It is especially appropriate to hold this discussion about
universities, industry and national laboratories here in San Diego. California is truly a national engine for our science and technology enterprise. With 12 percent of the American population, California
performs over 20 percent of all the research and development (R&D)
done in the United States. California's R&D fraction of its gross
state product -- 4.3 percent -- is nearly double the national
average, placing it among the top five states nationally.
The mother lode of California's R&D system is its incomparable
array of research universities. Five of the top fifteen academic
research institutions in the United States are here, with another
five in the top 100. Impressively, seven of these ten are different
campuses of the University of California. The record speaks for
itself. These universities and the national laboratories in this
state are an essential part of the Administration's strategy to
secure America's future prosperity, health, security, environmental
well-being, and sense of exploration at the frontier. Therefore,
California is most appropriate for kicking off a national dialogue
about the U.S. agenda for science and technology leadership.
Twenty-five years ago, a meeting such as this could hardly have
been imagined. There was no legislative authority for government-
university-industry partnerships and there was little activity. The
primary focus of government R&D was on government missions. In fact,
there was great doubt whether government capabilities could improve
private sector performance.
Such doubt has dissipated. Today it is recognized that it is
vital to have government, universities and industry linked together
in both the design and conduct of research, and, indeed, sometimes
co-venturing, in various ways down toward the marketplace.
Technology partnerships are based on a bipartisan foundation
and are driven by forces of technology and history that began before
the Clinton/Gore Administration and will continue into the future.
The difference between this Administration and its recent predecessors
is that it has recognized and embraced these changes [along with the
need to be more fiscally responsible], rather than ignore or resist
them. We have greatly expanded the tradition of technology
partnerships with the private sector, and our National Science
and Technology Council has also fostered new partnerships among
Federal agencies. From the outset of the Clinton Administration, we
have encouraged a new framework for research, making partnerships a cornerstone of our national S&T strategy, that intertwines the R&D
resources of universities, government and the private sector to
benefit our nation and our future. The point I wish to stress is
this: we strongly believe that increasing collaboration among
industry and government and universities is highly desirable when
sensibly selected. But, to endure, it must have sustaining
In that regard, we especially acknowledge the valuable
contributions of the Council on Competitiveness and of its far-sighted leaders John Yochelson and Erich Bloch, who helped supervise
preparation of the Endless Frontier, Limited Resources report.
This trailblazing document -- which I believe dovetails with
Administration R&D policy -- goes beyond the traditional hand-wringing
about constrained budgets, and accurately points out that greater collaboration, our national R&D enterprise is in danger of becoming "a disconnected set of hobbled institutions that cannot generate the bold advances on which the American standard of livi
Most importantly, the report insists that we come to grips
with several fundamental questions and address them systematically:
"What research is necessary to maintain the nation's scientific and technological competitiveness?" and, "Which of those research
endeavors will not be accomplished without government investment?"
Much of the Federal research and education investment
portfolio enjoyed bipartisan support during the President's first term. However, investments in some critical areas such as studying the
influence of human activity on global environmental systems, or
innovative government-university-industry technology partnerships
were sincerely challenged, partly for ideological reasons,
sometimes because of lack of knowledge, and sometimes out of
honest disagreement about the value to society of the programs.
Whatever the causes, the innovation system, which accounts for so
much of our national progress over the past half century, is in stress.
A major part of the strain results from the uncertainties of
Federal research funding as we drive down the Federal budget deficit. However, on the other side of the ledger, the bipartisan commitment
to deficit reduction is important for sustaining a business environment
that encourages substantial investment in commercial R&D. Another
part stems from the attempt to reshape and expand the research and
education portfolio to meet some of the major new societal realities.
Such changes do not come easily. As Francis Cornford, the late
Cambridge University philosopher, sardonically observed near the turn
of the last century, "Every public action which is not customary
either is wrong or, if it is right, is a dangerous precedent. It
follows that nothing should ever be done for the first time."
We, however, intend to escape this wry logic in framing
today's science and technology and education agenda to meet
tomorrow's demands. With the start of a new Administration and a
new Congress, we look forward to working together in support of our
entire research portfolio.
Let me give you just a thumbnail sketch of the President's
S&T budget in the year ahead. The bottom line is that the
President's FY1998 budget increases total Federal R&D funding by
more than $1.6 billion over 1997, to roughly $75 billion. This
marks the fifth year in a row that President Clinton has called
for increases in science, technology and education. Funding for
basic research and for university-based research is higher. Support
for environmental research, as well as health, food and safety
research also rises. Investments in computing and communications
grow by 10 percent. There is significantly enlarged support for
programs to bring modern information technology to American's
classrooms to raise students' achievements to rigorous and
challenging standards. Investment increases are also included for technologies essential for ensuring continued U.S. economic
leadership and job creation.
Forecasting is always a dangerous game, perhaps especially
so in areas driven by research, an activity that is all about the
unknown. But as a noted economist, Paul MacAvoy, once observed,
"If you don't forecast well, forecast often." Nonetheless, despite
the yearly rumors of the imminent demise of our nation's R&D
enterprise, the fact is that between the years 1998 and 2002, the
President's plan will preserve civilian research funding while
completing the job of balancing the budget. Our first guiding
principle in formulating next year's budget is to protect or enhance
funding levels for health research at NIH, fundamental research at
NSF, and DOE's science, energy efficiency, and renewable energy
programs, and NASA's science programs, along with the Administration's
S&T initiatives. And above this base, I fully expect some increases -- including those required to launch unanticipated but exciting new
initiatives -- to be presented each year, at the time that year's
budget request is prepared and submitted to Congress. Our second
guiding principle was to emphasize the association between research
and higher education.
Third, we have worked hard over the past year to provide budgets
in the out years that give continuity to research, ironing out the
ups and downs that were projected for out years in the 1997 budget.
When you consider our S&T budget in toto, advancing the
development of enabling technologies becomes increasingly significant
as the time horizons of industrial research and development grow
shorter. While a short-term research focus can sustain a globally competitive position for some time, it does not provide breakthrough technologies that generate new industries. That is why the
Administration continues to place emphasis on government-
university-industry partnership programs aimed at mid- to long-term
technology development in both the public and private interest.
Industry takes the lead in identifying promising directions and,
after independent merit review, government shares the risk.
Although these programs have experienced significant partisan
differences, the Administration will work to actively pursue
partnership programs in a pragmatic bipartisan spirit. In
particular, I believe these programs are now achieving a level
of experience that will permit detailed evaluation and optimization
of future investments.
Above all, our leadership strategy must be a national -- not
just a Federal -- strategy. The benefits of research are not
fashioned in Washington, they are forged in factories, laboratories,
and schools across America. We need a national program to address
these national goals. To do so:
From planning to execution to evaluation, we must bring to
the table all the players in science and technology the business
community, research universities and institutions, educators, and
state and federal governments.
We must foster international cooperation in science and
technology, even as we compete with our global partners in an
increasingly competitive world market. Such collaboration is
critical, not only to share the burden of expensive programs,
but to benefit from the expertise and know-how of others.
Strengthening partnerships among stakeholders in
universities, industry, and the states is vital to such a national
strategy. We have taken the initiative in a number of areas, all
of which will be key to forging the effective partnerships we
need. Let me give you a few examples:
Over the past year, the President has also listened
carefully to leaders in government, universities, and industry,
as well as the nation's governors, who have warned that the nation's universities are under stress. The President asked me to review
the government-university partnership. Our principal goals are
to identify areas of stress in research, education, and
administrative regulations, and determine what the Federal
government can do to address these problem areas. We expect to
complete this study by the end of this summer.
As many of you already know, the White House and the nation's
governors agreed earlier this month to work together in an Innovation Partnership to promote economic growth by stimulating the development
and use of improved technologies in areas such as advanced manufacturing, education, health care and electronic commerce. We will also extend
the capacity of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership to help
modernize the nation's 380,000 small- and medium-sized manufacturers.
We will continue the work we have begun to streamline the regulatory environment for research and technology.
The Advanced Technology Partnership program is an important
part of our strategy for expediting emerging technologies into the marketplace to benefit U.S. consumers and to strengthen our overall competitive position internationally. As I said earlier, our
philosophy is to let industry take the lead in identifying promising,
market-relevant directions and, after merit review, government then
shares a portion of the risk. These kinds of partnerships have
always been part and parcel of the U.S. R&D portfolio, but the
globalization of the economy and increasing international
competition require a higher level of commitment to such programs.
I see encouraging signs that the 105th Congress may well be more
open to this viewpoint, and I hope you will also continue to speak
out on behalf of these important public-private partnerships.
Finally, we need to continue our efforts to get our Federal
agencies to work more closely together and with the private sector.
We have had some notable successes, including the Partnership for
a New Generation of Vehicles. PNGV is a cooperative effort among six government agencies and the U.S. automobile industry to produce
a production prototype vehicle capable of 80 miles per gallon by 2004.
We also have some other exciting initiatives, including the Global
Climate Change Research Program, the High Performance Computing
Initiative, convergence of civil and military weather satellites,
and a major effort on Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases.
I cannot stress enough that bipartisan support will be critical
for shaping a sustainable agenda. The American people want us to be partners, not partisans, and the vast majority in Congress support
a strong Federal research program. The scientific and engineering communities also have the opportunity and the responsibility to
help forge consensus about the future's requirements for America's
research and education investments. History suggests that the
cost of not making these key investments in technical and human
resources will be far greater than that of moving ahead.
Let us return to the Agenda for National S&T leadership for
a moment. First, remember that science and technology leadership, or
the lack of it, in one deeply affects the other. The required
elements necessary to focus our efforts are: an educated,
well-informed, and open society that embraces thoughtful change
and has an eye to the future; a long-term, deep commitment to
research and higher education; and a fertile policy environment
that encourages entrepreneurship, experimentation, and innovation.
In closing, I am reminded of the story of the great French
military leader, General Lyautey, who once asked his gardener to
plant a particular tree. The gardener protested that such a tree
was very slow growing and would not reach maturity for a hundred
years. The General replied, "In that case, there is no time to
lose. Plant it this afternoon." We, too, have no time to
lose -- we must continue to build the investment agenda that
will shape America's success deep into the twenty-first century.
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