Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Research universities are the heart of U.S. innovation, Forrest tells roundtable

Vice President for Research Stephen Forrest told a Washington, D.C., panel of science media that he believes the heart of American innovation is the nation's research universities.

  Vice President for Research Stephen Forrest speaks at a roundtable for science media in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Eugene Salazar)

At a media roundtable Wednesday sponsored by The Science Coalition — an advocacy organization representing nearly 50 research universities, including U-M — Forrest said that spirit of innovation is what sets America apart from other nations.

"American inventions and an entrepreneurial atmosphere — that's a combustible mix for innovation," Forrest said.

Forrest also said that technology transfer is only one part of the work that universities do to be innovative.

"Mentoring, helping develop business plans, creating accelerators and business incubators — all of these are important elements" that universities nurture, he said.  "As universities have gotten more professional, they've realized there is so much more than just technology transfer."

In response to a question, Forrest said America has not seen a recent ebb in innovation, and pointed to two recent examples of game-changing discoveries — the touch pad, which he said resuscitated the semiconductor industry, and renewable energy, which he credits with opening up a huge new field of opportunity.

Eight other senior research officers participated in the media roundtable along with a dozen Washington-based science reporters and editors.