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165 University Leaders Recommend Closing 'Innovation Deficit'

Presidents and chancellors from 165 United States universities have issued an open letter to President Obama and Congress, urging them to close the "innovation deficit."

The innovation deficit, according to the letter, is the widening gap between needed and actual investments in research and education. The letter, which was published in Politico, recommends investment in those areas and argues that doing so will lead to innovation and new technologies, which, in turn, will boost the economy, create jobs, reduce budget deficits, and help the country maintain its role as a global leader.

The letter argues that more than half of economic growth in the United States since World War II is the result of technological innovation, most of which resulted from federally funded scientific research conducted at U.S. universities. The letter also points out that over the past two decades, China, Singapore, and South Korea have increased investment in research and higher education at a rate two to four times higher than the U.S.

The university leaders issued the letter at a time when Congress is preparing to address critical budget decisions, such as annual funding bills, the debt limit, and measures to eliminate or modify sequestration cuts. According to the letter, increasing funding to research and education at a time of fiscal austerity would encourage long-term economic growth and fiscal stability.

"Because the innovation deficit undermines economic growth it harms our nation's overall fiscal health, worsening long-term budget deficits and debt," states the letter. "Investments in research and education are not inconsistent with long-term deficit reduction; they are vital to it."

"Failing to deal with the innovation deficit will pass to future generations the burdens of lost leadership in innovation, economic decline, and limited job opportunities," the letter adds.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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