Creating Jobs Through Science and Technology Innovations
The globalization of the world economy and the rise of international competitiveness have propelled science and technology leadership into the forefront of state and national priorities.
In such a global setting, an important component of achieving leadership in science and technology is the development of partnerships to create jobs through innovations in science and technology.
At the same time, we know that sustained job and wage growth depends on supporting the creation of new ideas and other forms of innovation. According to the Council on Competitiveness, the primary focus of innovative activities is at the regional level - where companies, workers, universities, and government most closely intersect.
There may be no state in America better positioned than Delaware to take advantage of both these realities. John Carney recently outlined how he wants to do just that: bringing together our universities, the private sector, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, as well as the state and federal governments to build Delaware's Science and Technology-based economy.
This piece of our economy will be a key one and will complement the sectors that are already so important to our state, like agriculture, financial services and auto manufacturing. We should continue to preserve and protect each one of them as we strive to create a more diversified 21st-Century Economy.
Ever since DuPont began making gunpowder on the banks of the Brandywine 200 years ago, Delaware has been one of the most inventive and entrepreneurial places in the world, nurturing new technology-based businesses like, industrial chemicals, fibers, polymers, coatings, advanced materials from Gore, and more recently life-science-based businesses such as high-value crops and biofuels from duPont and pharmaceuticals from AstraZeneca. Thousands of jobs are being created through research and new product development. That means jobs and economic security not only for those involved but also for the Delawareans who produce the food, build the homes, sell the cars, staff the banks and teach in the schools.
Today, next to the private sector, the biggest engines of innovation are our universities and colleges. As chairman of the Delaware Science and Technology Council, John has been helping to lead the development of a state science and technology plan that better leverages our investment in our colleges and universities. The result should be innovation and business development that will fuel job growth for Delaware's future.
We have a strong foundation on which to build. Over the past decade, starting with our 21st Century Fund, we seeded the Delaware Technology Park, the Delaware Biotechnology Institute (DBI) and the Fraunhofer Center for Molecular Biotechnology. This model of university and state partnership that provides an environment for developing and marketing new ideas, has already paid dividends, creating and attracting new companies, thousands of new high-wage jobs, and millions in federal dollars for research and development into the Delaware economy.
Today DBI is a 72,000 square foot state-of-the-art research facility, including several professionally managed core centers. It has capital investments approaching $150M, secured from state, federal, private and academic sources. The Institute, with an annual budget of about $12M, is home to a faculty core of about 25, plus about 150 graduate and postdoctoral researchers and 20 professional staff members. DBI is rapidly building a research reputation in plant and animal sciences, human health, biomaterials, and environmental and marine sciences.
Between 1999 and 2006, federal funding for life science research in Delaware, including the National Institutes of Health and the US Department of Agriculture, has increased over three-fold, from $14M to $46M per year. During the same time period, annual National Science Foundation funding has risen steadily from $18M to $26M.
Over the next five to ten years, we hope to see a mix of new products - pharmaceuticals, healthy foods, high-performance materials, and new sources of energy emerging from today's R&D efforts. Now is the time to take the Delaware science and technology economy to the next level.
Here is what John proposes we do:
Build Research Capacity at Delaware's Institutions of Higher Learning - the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, Delaware Technical & Community College, and Wesley College - in areas that include human health, agriculture, alternative energy, nanotechnology, environmental sciences and advanced material systems.
Expand the Delaware Biotechnology Institute. DBI is a great Delaware success story and its continued growth and development is critical to everything I am talking about today. DBI is a distinctive partnership that engages and integrates scientists beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries and that mobilizes the combined strengths of higher education, business and government. We need to continue to support its efforts in recruiting top academic, innovative and entrepreneurial talent. We must also help it continue the great success it has had in attracting federal research dollars, and infuse additional state dollars, especially when they can be matched with funding from other sources.
As part of building that research capacity: Develop additional Centers of Scientific Research and Technology. For example, the Delaware Institute for Sustainable Energy, which encompasses research in solar cells, wind power, fuel cells, etc, could propel Delaware into the forefront of these emerging technologies. Similarly, the Center for Translational Cancer Research can emerge as a cutting-edge partnership between the University of Delaware. Christiana Care, Nemours and AI duPont Hospital for Children in the area of cancer research. Other Centers of Excellence include the Center for Critical Zone Research, the Avian Bioscience Center and, possibly, a center for nanotechnology.
Leverage the private sector strength of AstraZeneca, DuPont, Agilent, Air Liquide, Gore, GE Solar, Strategic Diagnostics, and others through collaboration with higher education. We already have some of the world's top innovators right here in our back yard. Forging better partnerships between the proven businesses in our State and the innovative minds pushing new ideas will yield benefits for both. The State can help by creating a friendly business environment where the best new ideas can be developed, piloted, and commercialized. For example, last year, thanks to a partnership among the State, led by Gov. Minner, the University of Delaware, Allen Family Food, GE Solar, and WorldWater and Power, we launched a program to evaluate the economic benefit of using solar energy to power poultry houses. It is a great example of putting effective partnerships together to address critical issues, such as energy costs and availability, and creating a sustainable environment.
Foster an Effective Technology Transfer Capacity. To be competitive, we need to facilitate the intersection of cutting-edge research with entrepreneurs who will make the capital investments to bring new products to the marketplace. That requires better state and university participation in the conversion of scientific research and innovation into commercial applications and business development. Put simply, we need to be a partner in putting together the innovators, the financing, and the business development. For example, we should:
1. Earmark one-time state revenues for funding of technology initiatives as part of the state's Strategic Fund.
2. Support First State Innovation, whose mission is to build an entrepreneurial environment in Delaware and access business development funding.
3. Support the growth of the Delaware Technology Park as it attracts more innovative startups.
Focus the efforts of the Delaware Economic Development Office to reflect the growing importance of a science and technology-based economy. DEDO's job should be to help make the critical linkages in technology transfer and new business development by vigilantly looking for opportunities to create partnerships and fund new ideas that show the most promise for commercialization. To that end, DEDO must make this a bigger part of its business plan and commit specific resources to growing Delaware's science and technology-based economy.
Strengthen Education and Workforce Development: Finally, we need to focus on science and technology education in our schools. Science needs to be a critical component of our state-wide curriculum development. We also need to market the importance of science to kids early in their academic years and build a coalition of scientists and educators to stimulate interest in careers in science and technology from grade school to grad school. As part of that effort, John will support the creation of higher education institutes for exceptional high school students to excel in science-related fields to help them reach their full potential.
Together these initiatives can bring Delaware a 21st Century knowledge-based economy that will provide our children the same kind of jobs and opportunities our parents had back in the heyday of manufacturing.