On July 18 2011, President Peterson spoke at a Georgia Competitiveness Initiative summit held on the Tech campus. It is one of 12 regional meetings across the state this summer, part of Governor Nathan Deal’s initiative to engage state government and the business community in order to develop a long-term strategy for economic development.
Thank you for joining us today. We at Georgia Tech are honored to host today’s meeting and to work together with all of you in developing recommendations that will ultimately stimulate job creation and growth.
A little over a week ago I was fortunate to be among the estimated one million people at Kennedy Space Center to see the final launch of the Space Shuttle program. It was an experience that I will always remember for several reasons. In 1981 I was working at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston when John Young commanded the first Shuttle mission. He is a Georgia Tech graduate, as is one of the four astronauts on the current mission, Dr. Sandy Magnus. There have been 14 Georgia Tech Shuttle astronauts, along with hundreds if not thousands of Georgia Tech graduates who have worked as engineers and administrators in the space program.
The launch of the 135th mission of the Space Shuttle fleet brings to close an era of space travel that many thought impossible.
Forty two years ago this month, on July 21, 1969, some of us remember sitting or standing in front of our television sets with 500 million people worldwide and watching Neil Armstrong take that first step on the moon’s surface, pronouncing “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” The space program became symbolic of American ingenuity. “If we can land a man on the moon, we can do anything.” Fill in the blank.
What are today’s grand challenges that ignite our passion, challenge us to do what others consider impossible, and unite us in this pursuit? Will we develop a cure for cancer? Or resolve the issues surrounding energy? Or to bring manufacturing jobs home to Georgia? All are within our reach if we dare to dream and work together.
Let’s apply that “we can do anything” attitude to Georgia in our goal to work together to ensure that the business community and state government develop a long-term economic strategy as part of Governor Deal’s Georgia Competitiveness Initiative. This is not rocket science, but it will require our best thinking and collaboration. I’ve been asked to share thoughts about three of the six strategic focus areas within the initiative: education; innovation, and international opportunities.
First let me start with education. As we focus on the creation of jobs and strengthening our economy, one of the best investments we can make is in higher education. It is an investment with a clear and measurable economic return for individuals, families, the workforce, the state, and society as a whole.
Each year there are almost 50,000 graduates from the 35 University System of Georgia institutions, along with graduates from private colleges who play a significant role in providing business and industry with a prepared workforce.
Research universities are creating jobs. Georgia Tech alone has an annual economic impact of more than $2 billion, and we’re one of three research universities in the Atlanta region, two of which hold membership in the AAU – the Association of American Universities. Most metropolitan areas are happy to have just one outstanding research university. These universities provide a competitive advantage for the region.
One of the things that is unique about colleges and universities in our region is the level of collaboration and cooperation that exists. Georgia Tech and Emory University partner in a number of areas, including dual degree programs and research. For example, researchers from Georgia Tech and Emory have discovered that a vaccine delivered to the skin using a microneedle patch gives better protection against the H1N1 flu virus than an injection.
Universities also partner with business and industry to develop solutions to global challenges and in the process create jobs, help our state’s economy, and improve the quality of life.
Children’s Healthcare and Georgia Tech have more than 125 ongoing collaborations. Donna Hyland serves on the Georgia Tech Advisory Board, and recently spoke before the group to talk about our partnerships. The two organizations are helping to find ways to treat brain tumors in children, the second leading cause of death in children.
We’re working to help develop sustainable, productive healthcare and business models. Children’s Healthcare, the Department of Community Health and Georgia Tech are partnering to provide a statewide health information exchange to migrate to electronic patient records, as well as providing the infrastructure for wellness outcomes and predictive health.
Tech’s EI2 – the Enterprise Innovation Institute – is partnering with technical colleges: a key way to improve workforce development. We could simply introduce electronic patient records throughout the state, but there would be faster adoption if we worked closely with the technical colleges to help medical personnel of the future learn about this technology during their training.
I serve on the National Science Board. Each year the NSB produces a report on Science and Engineering Indicators. The latest report clearly indicates that many countries are making science, engineering and technology a national priority. This is because these fields address important issues, ensure global competitiveness and create new jobs.
To ensure our economic place in the world, we must continue to attract, develop and retain top engineering and science talent, for this drives world-class innovation and R&D. This requires that we prepare students with the necessary background at all levels: elementary, secondary and post-secondary.
You might ask why Georgia Tech would be interested in K-12 education – the reality is that without well prepared students, we at Tech cannot continue to provide the best engineers, technologists and scientists in the world. For this reason Georgia Tech has taken a leading role in expanding K-12 STEM education. Statewide, math and science teachers can participate in a paid summer internship, called GIFT, or Georgia Intern-Fellowships for Teachers. We host 28 different programs for K-12 students and have initiated a distance calculus program for high school students.
Georgia Tech and NASA are partnering to deliver educational resources to enhance K-12 STEM instruction. The online interactive courses are offered tuition free to any U.S. citizen worldwide that is teaching in a K-12 classroom — public, private or home school.
The second strategic area is innovation. Becoming more competitive starts with innovation. Last year Georgia Tech and Kennesaw State University conducted a manufacturing survey. We collected data from more than 500 manufacturers in Georgia. What we found was that those companies competing on the basis of innovation in new or technologically improved products were more than twice as profitable as firms competing on the basis of low price.
This spring the U.S. Council on Competitiveness interviewed more than 30 university presidents and national laboratory directors on manufacturing competitiveness for a project called Ignite 2.0. I was fortunate enough to have been included in that group. The outcome was clear. A robust American manufacturing sector advances national security interests, defense readiness, increases exports and catalyzes economic growth. The manufacturing sector drives the development of high-value jobs. It is vital to America’s innovation ecosystem.
The survey respondents said that translational pathways for innovation must be bolstered to drive innovative ideas and technologies through to commercialization, and that U.S. universities and national laboratories are “gems that must be protected.” A second recommendation was that government policies need to address uncertainty and rise above politics in areas such as the tax code, patent processing and intellectual property protection.
The consensus was that collaboration and expanded roles will enhance our ability to compete – colleges, universities, national laboratories, and the public and private sectors must advance collaboration and seek new and innovative opportunities and relationships. This collaboration must exist in a well-funded and vibrant ecosystem that facilitates breakthrough innovations and the development of mutually beneficial, long-lasting partnerships, energized regional clusters and robust economic development zones. These partnerships will inspire and prepare students to become America’s next generation of innovators.
We are committed to preparing students to be innovators and leaders. For fiscal year 2010, 41 percent of Georgia Tech inventors were either graduate or undergraduate students and 80 percent of the invention disclosures listed at least one student as a co-inventor. Universities have a special role in training the next generation of inventors and entrepreneurs. At Georgia Tech, we pay particular attention to equipping our students with the tools they need to make discoveries and the skills necessary to turn those discoveries into products. In doing so, we help them to realize that an idea is not an invention, an invention is not a product, and a product is not a business. Innovation, as distinct from invention, is central to what we do and is the process that moves ideas from their identification to their use, for the betterment of humanity. Innovation is insight plus invention plus implementation.
At Georgia Tech, we believe that innovation and technology are going to be two of the most important drivers of a diverse and thriving 21st century economy. Commercialization is deeply ingrained in our mission and is a vital component of our new Strategic Plan. We recently introduced a research strategy as part of our strategic planning process to provide greater synergy between research, innovation, and economic development. Under the leadership of Dr. Steve Cross, our executive vice president for research, we are creating clusters to address what we think are the “grand challenges.” This effort has three tenets: create transformative opportunities, strengthen collaborative partnerships, and enhance economic development.
Tech’s comprehensive program spans research, education and outreach, including a presence in 25 locations around the state. Not only do these footprints provide support to existing local industries through our Enterprise Innovation Institute, they also serve as part of a statewide innovative ecosystem that is attracting companies and new opportunities to Georgia.
Attracting major companies, like GE Energy and NCR, was a team effort led by the Georgia Department of Economic Development and supported by the Georgia Research Alliance, the Governor’s office and the legislature, state and local Chambers of Commerce and university partners.
A critical component of Georgia’s competitiveness is our ability to move new ideas and innovations quickly from the lab to the manufacturing floor. We can do that through increased cooperation between universities and the public and private sectors. On our campus, entrepreneurs are collaborating with Georgia Tech research and researchers to transition technologies to products in our Advanced Technology Development Center. Investing in pilot plants close to research universities can be an accelerator to innovation and competitiveness. We are investing in pilot plant facilities in areas such as biomedicine and sustainability, partnering with business and industry in these spaces.
Last month President Obama outlined an Advanced Manufacturing Partnership to speed this commercialization on the national scale. It is a national effort to bring together industry, universities and the federal government to develop ways to create jobs and to help spark a manufacturing renaissance in the United States. The focus will be on identifying and investing in key emerging technologies, such as information technology, biotechnology and nanotechnology—areas that can represent a cost-prohibitive investment for most individual companies. The things we’re working to accomplish concern the entire political spectrum.
America responds well to grand challenges and today the confluence of state and national discussions on competitiveness, innovation, manufacturing and similar topics about how America will return to its rightful place as a world leader is encouraging and refreshing.
The third and final area is international opportunities. One of the ways we can help ensure global success is to bring the world to Georgia. We have the world’s busiest passenger airport, serving more than 87 million people a year. The Savannah port has what many feel is the greatest growth potential of any of the East Coast ports. Georgia offers business access to more than 75 governments from around the world with consular offices and trade representation in metro Atlanta. Countries from around the world are beginning to locate operations and business incubators here. The opportunities in the international arena are boundless.
I opened this morning with a reference to the space program. I would like to add a closing thought. During my trip to Florida to see the Space Shuttle launch, I kept a blog that we updated on the Georgia Tech web site. In my last blog entry, I noted that there are many frontiers ahead of us, some that seem as insurmountable as building a Space Station and a fleet of spacecraft that could travel into low earth orbit more than 100 times did in 1980.
But this is America. Through innovation and by working together, we can do anything. I would like to suggest that we not work to develop a plan to go where the world is going for economic prosperity. Let’s chart a new course; let’s lead. Thank you.