Rep. Lipinski, research leaders link innovation to economy
By Blue Sky Innovation
The leaders of Illinois' top research institutions called on the U.S. government Tuesday to provide funding for the kind of science work they say leads to economy-boosting innovations.
Speaking at an awards ceremony for U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski at the 1871 coworking center for digital startups, the presidents of Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, along with leaders from the University of Illinois and Argonne National Laboratory, said the nation’s economic future is linked to investments in science and research and the innovation they spawn.
“We all know the data,” said Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro, referring to funding of scientific research. “It’s the best investment you can possibly make, with even higher economic returns than other investments. It’s an enormous source of economic growth and prosperity, and the data are really clear about that.”
Lipinski, D-Chicago, received the Champion of Science Award from The Science Coalition, which calls itself a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of more than 50 of the nation’s leading public and private research universities.
“Without innovation,” Lipinski said in accepting the award, “the American economy, and the American dream is in real danger.”
University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer said research investments “are fundamentally investments in the future for ourselves, for our children.”
Eric Isaacs, director of Argonne National Laboratory, said only the government is in a position to invest in the kind of science that leads to innovations by the private sector years down the road. He cited recent commercial developments in battery technology.
“That work started 15 or 20 years ago,” he said. “It’s very difficult to think about 15, 20 years out. It’s very difficult to think about that kind of seed corn. Industry in this country has virtually given that up. They just don’t have the time, nor do they have the ability to look over the horizon. So really the core funding for that kind of work is left almost entirely to the government.”
Caralyn Nowinski, associate vice president of innovation and economic development at the University of Illinois, pointed to companies emerging out of 1871 as evidence of “how important this basic research is to stimulating the economy, to spurring innovation and to driving the nation’s competitiveness.”
After the awards ceremony, Lipinski met with leaders in the research and tech communities for a round-table discussion. There he heard more arguments for federally backed research.
“The real question is, how do we get more creativity to come out of the research labs?” said Mark Hersam, director of Northwestern’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center and founder of the tech firm NanoIntergis.
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