I found this article really interesting. It talks about how getting more engineers into the economy can have a big impact on our GDP. Now, It’s not like this is anything new. I hear all the time about how our kids need to be better at math and science. This just seems to be even more proof:
From dozens of low-slung buildings and state-of-the art complexes, more than 2,700 scientists, researchers, faculty and students at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL) are concocting the latest in renewable energy, nanomaterials and supercomputers.
LBL, one of 17 national laboratories, may be the most pre-eminent lab in a country built on the creation of the telephone, TV, microprocessor, nuclear power and the Internet. But tens of thousands of the brightest minds and deepest thinkers are tinkering and plotting at government-funded labs, tech companies, private incubators and, yes, garages, in the USA to come up with technology that will change the way Americans live, travel, communicate and are entertained.
It’s here, where LBL is working on creating artificial photosynthesis (fuel from sunlight), longer battery life for electric cars and nanotechnology that lets homes adjust internal temperatures based on the weather, among other things.
“The possibilities are limitless,” says invention legend Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza-Time Theater chain.
“This should be the best time ever for innovation in the U.S.,” says Curt Carlson, CEO of SRI International, a non-profit research institute. “We have an abundance of opportunity in energy, health care, IT, media — all of which are all in transition.”
Yet, spurring even more innovation is at the heart of President Obama’s $447 billion jobs plan, and a major undercurrent in legislation for immigration and trademarks.
Political progressives bemoan the lack of infrastructure that Big Works, such as the race to the moon or the interstate highway system in the U.S., create, claiming that the Industrial Revolution and the American Century are in history’s rear-view mirror. Patent wars have stifled innovation for some tech firms, and a gasping economy has led to cutbacks in research and development at cash-strapped tech companies.
Despite America’s knack for ingenuity, the forces of change face some heavy crosswinds. A wheezing economy, a dearth of college engineering students, sagging high school math and science scores, and sinking research-and-development investments have heightened concerns about the USA’s ability to compete with rising powers China and India. By Goldman Sachs’ estimate, the Chinese economy will overtake the U.S. economy by 2027 and almost double its size by 2050.
The federal government’s support for R&D, as a share of the U.S. economy, has plummeted by nearly two-thirds since the 1960s, says Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., who has a doctoral degree in physics. The Congressional Research Service estimates the federal government provided $147 billion for R&D last year.
The push for more innovation is tightly intertwined with the digital economy and the country’s ability to produce jobs while maintaining a competitive edge in world markets, Holt and others say. “Without large-scale funding, you don’t get large telescopes, fusion-energy development and particle accelerators,” Holt says.