Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Coleman joins university leaders urging Washington to close 'innovation deficit'

Deeply concerned about major federal budget cuts to research and higher education, President Mary Sue Coleman has joined 163 other university presidents and chancellors in calling on leaders in Washington, D.C., to close what they call the "innovation deficit."

In an open letter published in Politico, Coleman and her fellow university leaders wrote that closing the innovation deficit — the widening gap between needed and actual investments in research and education — must be a national imperative.

The higher education leaders noted that investments in those areas lead to innovation and new technologies that power the nation's economy, create jobs and reduce the budget deficit while ensuring the U.S. maintains its role as global leader.

"Throughout our history, this nation has kept the promise of a better tomorrow to each generation," Coleman and her colleagues wrote. "This has been possible because of our economic prosperity based in large part on America's role as global innovation leader. Failing to deal with the innovation deficit will pass to future generations the burdens of lost leadership in innovation, economic decline and limited job opportunities.

"We call upon you to reject unsound budget cuts and recommit to strong and sustained investments in research and education. Only then can we ensure that our nation's promise of a better tomorrow endures."

Economists agree that more than half of U.S. economic growth since World War II is a consequence of technological innovation, much of which results from federally funded scientific research conducted at U.S. universities. Such groundbreaking research, the university leaders noted, has led to life-saving vaccines, lasers, MRI, touchscreens, GPS, the Internet and many other advances that have improved lives and generated entire new sectors of our economy.

The university leaders' initiative comes as Congress faces critical budget decisions in the coming months. Annual funding bills, the debt limit and measures to eliminate or modify the deep across-the-board spending cuts forced by sequestration could all be taken up this fall.

The presidents and chancellors noted that targeted investments in research and higher education should be made regardless of overall funding levels because they would be key sources of long-term economic growth and fiscal stability.

The universities represented in the letter are all members of the Association of American Universities and/or the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.