Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Coleman promotes higher ed as crucial part of energy strategy

Follow developments at the National Energy Summit by reading Sue Nichols' blog.

Higher education — its research, innovations and students — is as much a part of the nation’s energy infrastructure as are bricks and steel, President Mary Sue Coleman said Wednesday at a national conference on energy issues.

Coleman participated in the Council on Competitiveness National Energy Summit at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. The summit, which runs through today, convenes top corporate CEOs, senior U.S. and global government officials, university presidents, labor union leaders, and others charged with mapping the strategies to meet U.S. energy and sustainability challenges.

Coleman was on the panel “Jumpstarting Energy Infrastructure and Manufacturing.” Coverage of the panel can be found on a blog at the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute’s Web site.

Panelists noted that America needs to focus on application-driven energy policy instead of interest-driven energy policy.

Sustained focus is needed, Coleman said, so faculty can pursue complex problems over long periods of time without fear that funding will dry up too soon. Students need to be able to invest time, money and creativity in areas they can be confident will become fruitful careers.

Faculty and students will need that commitment as they take programs such as battery storage and new materials into new directions, she said.

It was a conviction echoed by U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu later in day, dropping references like “long-term commitment” and “stable incentives” and emphasizing the need to invest in the next generation of scientists and engineers.

“We must pay attention to our intellectual capital that will drive innovation,” Chu said.

Coleman agreed, noting that at U-M, the entrepreneurial spirit of the students represents a major — and inspiring — shift in campus culture.

“The students are absolutely ready to go out and do things more risky than I once would have expected,” she said. “They are very eager to help solve these problems and we have an enormous resource we need to tap into.”