That was the message delivered at an Innovation Economy Symposium sponsored by U.S. Rep. Scott Peters and hosted at UC San Diego, which featured panelists representing local business and industry.
“As a country, it is imperative that we adequately fund scientific research,” said Rep. Peters (D-52) after the Symposium. “San Diego is a growing center for innovation and technology that can set an example for how business, universities and government can work collaboratively to create an atmosphere for growth.”
Held at the university’s Great Hall in front of a capacity crowd of more than 250 attendees, the symposium was hosted by UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla. The keynote speaker was Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer from Maryland and panelists included Mark Cafferty, president/CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation; Jerry Sanders, former San Diego mayor and president/CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce; John Dunn, member of the board of directors at CONNECT; Magda Marquet, chair of the board of directors at BIOCOM; and Holly Smithson, president/COO at CleanTECH San Diego.
In opening remarks, Khosla said federal budget sequestration that went into effect earlier this year are “an impediment to the progress we were making” in funding research and development in the innovation economy.
Innovation economics is a growing doctrine that technology, entrepreneurship and innovation are pivotal, and that the goal of economic policy should be to spur higher productivity through greater innovation.
Khosla noted that the post-World War II economic boom was both education- and technology-driven, as more people went to school with the G.I. Bill, and Congress actively supported technological investment, spurring economic growth and research and development at universities.
“In the last 60 years, we’ve slowly forgotten what happened with that investment,” said the chancellor.
“The payoff for that investment has been priceless,” said Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives. “We need to continue to invest in our scientists, our researchers, our engineers and mathematicians, those people that will make an extraordinary difference in the lives of my great-grandchildren. I know what has made America great is investing in its people, its basic research and its future.”
Symposium panelists responded to questions by Peters.
Sanders pointed out pending immigration reform in Congress must involve building infrastructure between the U.S. and Mexico, allowing movement of manufactured products back and forth between the two nations.
“We consider San Diego and Tijuana in Baja, California as one region and we need to work together as a region competitive with the rest of the world,” Sanders said.
CleanTECH’s Smithson said Congress should do what it can to promote alternative fuels and clean energy.
“Investing in our infrastructure is critical to where we need to be,” she said, adding Congress needs to make sense of federal tax and regulatory policies toward start-up businesses in order to promote them and allow them to succeed.
Dunn of CONNECT, which promotes innovative entrepreneurship, said, “Federal tax reform is going to be a big part” in providing incentives for companies to invest in technological innovation.
Marquet of BIOCOM, the local chapter of the life science industry’s trade association, said the “convergence between biotech and high-tech” in San Diego is promising in its potential to commercialize technological innovation.
“It’s a numbers game,” Marquet said, warning it’s difficult to encourage investment in research and development when “only one in 10 drugs makes it through and it takes an average of 10 years.”
“It’s a huge challenge, but also a wonderful opportunity,” she said.