West Virginia University President Jim Clements on Friday advocated a continued strong federal commitment to the nation’s land-grant research institutions, joining other members of the Commerce Department’s Innovation Advisory Board to deliver its report on national competitiveness and innovation.

The report serves as a call to arms, highlighting bipartisan priorities to sustain and promote American innovation and economic competitiveness.

“Observers have expressed concern that the scientific and technological building blocks critical to our economic leadership have been eroding at a time when many other nations are actively laying strong foundations in these same areas,” the report says in outlining the challenge. “In short, some elements of the U.S. economy are losing their competitive edge which may mean that future generations of Americans will not enjoy a higher standard of living than is enjoyed in the United States today.”

“One way to approach the question of how to improve the competitiveness of the United States is to look to the past and examine the factors that helped unleash the tremendous innovative potential of the private sector. Among these factors, three pillars have been key: Federal support for basic research, education, and infrastructure,” the report says.

Clements was the only university president to serve on the Innovation Advisory Board. To help gather ideas for the final report, he hosted an event in Morgantown bringing together some of WVU’s most prominent alumni and federal, state, local and University officials to discuss strategies to promote innovation, job creation and U.S. competitiveness. He also co-hosted a meeting at Youngstown State in Ohio to discuss strategies for creating a successful regional innovation ecosystem.

On Friday, Clements was one of the IAB panel members participating in discussions highlighting elements of the report.

The report highlights the role land-grant institutions have played in the nation’s growth, and Clements stressed the importance they must continue to play in helping increase and strengthen the nation’s competitiveness.

“By providing access to higher education to a broad range of students, land-grant universities have extended the intellectual and economic benefits of a college education to millions of students who might not otherwise have had the opportunity,” Clements said. “Through the application of the knowledge – created by research – land-grant universities have also improved the lives of countless individuals and communities, in the United States and around the world.”

Access and application are the core of the land-grant idea, Clements said and “are essential to maintaining future competitiveness and innovative capacity.”

“I encourage us to remember that the federal investment in land-grant universities, and in higher education, has been and, remains, a key to American competitiveness and innovation,” he said.

The Innovation Advisory Board was created last year as part of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, which Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-WV, helped write.

“I appreciate the work of Jim Clements on the Innovation Advisory Board,” said Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. “West Virginia has seen success in its many local industries, and has also faced economic difficulties that we are working to overcome. By acknowledging the challenges we face, we can better prepare a world-class workforce to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”

Speaking at Friday’s event at the Center for American Progress, Commerce Secretary John Bryson highlighted the important role innovation plays in the nation’s economy.

“This is a topic of pivotal importance,” Bryson said. “Our ability to innovate as a nation will determine what kind of economy – what kind of country – our children and grandchildren will inherit, and whether it’s a country that holds the same promise for them as is did for our parents and grandparents.”

The report makes three important findings:

  • Federal investments in research, education and infrastructure were critical building blocks for American economic competitiveness, business expansion and job creation in the last century;
  • Failures to properly invest in, and have comprehensive strategies for, those areas eroded America’s competitive position; and,
  • In a constrained budgetary environment, prioritizing support for these pillars are imperative for America’s economic future and provide a strong return on investment for the U.S. taxpayer.

The report was mandated as part of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, which was signed into law by President Obama in January last year.

The report addresses a diverse range of topics and policy options, including: tax policy; the general business climate in the U.S.; barriers to setting up new firms; trade policy, including export promotion; the effectiveness of Federal Research and Development policy; intellectual property regimes in the U.S. and abroad; the health of the manufacturing sector; and science and technology education.

The full report, as well as additional resources, can be found online at www.commerce.gov/americacompetes.



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