To be a student in academia is to be surrounded by new ideas. On individual levels, learning new things becomes the norm in college. On a collective level however, universities aim not simply to gather information, but to create it. Innovation is the pillar of academic achievement. Over its history, American universities have been drivers of innovation, with achievements like the polio vaccine, MRIs and touch screens.
A collaboration of science, business and education professionals joined together with Colorado State University to spread awareness of something called the “innovation deficit” in America. In a short four-minute video, this team explained what the innovation deficit is, why it is important and how we resolve the issue.
To summarize their conclusions, the innovation deficit is the reduction of federal funding to higher education for the purposes of innovation and research due to budget cuts and sequestration.
The deficit is an issue because as the video states, “If we don’t address the innovation deficit, it will be impossible to grow our economy, overcome our budget deficit and create the jobs of the future as the rest of the world makes great strides.” Resolving the issue can be done in large part by increased investment in the research that makes innovation possible.
Colorado in particular is lacking in funding, ranking 48th in dollars spent per student for higher education in 2011. In addition, innovations today are increasingly more expensive due to costs of proper equipment, facilities and infrastructure. The reality is that funding issues are one of the largest constraints in research projects here in America.
While the innovation deficit can easily be framed competitively as the U.S. against the world, this can misconstrue the realities of research in an increasingly interdependent global economy.
CSU’s Vice President of Research Alan Rudolph experienced the research and innovations that happen with international cooperation. He just returned from Brazil, and worked with scientists developing a robotic exoskeleton to help paraplegics regain mobility.
“I’m involved firsthand in a program in Brazil, and saw how their research has improved as a result of hard work and innovation,” Dr. Rudolph said.
Rick Lyons, the director of the Infectious Disease Research Center, explained how the study of infectious diseases often takes place where emerging infections occur.
“We’re working in Senegal, in Kenya, doing research on diseases before they become widespread,” Lyons said.
However, these projects do rely on funding, not just for faculty, but for the infrastructure that makes innovation possible.
“We need state of the art equipment, IT infrastructure and high building and lab quality to be competitive in research and innovation,” Lyons said.
When asking why taxpayers and government should provide the funding for these projects, the answer is not simply that we need to keep up with other countries. Innovation is not about some arbitrary standings between other countries, innovation is about America’s capacity and ambition.
In the realm of innovation, we have yet to reach the limits of our capacities or the depths of our ambitions. As a country, what we are capable of is bound only by our own complacency and neglect. If we are to accomplish what is within our grasp to accomplish, it is necessary that the American people give the scientists and researchers the means to do so.
Collegian Editor at Large Zack Burley can be reached at email@example.com.