Developing community rapport opens a door to the future

A recent study from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis has put a number on the value of research and development as a driver for economic growth. It seems that R&D is contributing about 7% of the economic growth in the past seven years when it is considered as a capital investment, like a new piece of equipment, rather than as an expense, such as the salaries paid t...
By Bob Vavra, Editor November 1, 2006

A recent study from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis has put a number on the value of research and development as a driver for economic growth. It seems that R&D is contributing about 7% of the economic growth in the past seven years when it is considered as a capital investment, like a new piece of equipment, rather than as an expense, such as the salaries paid to the R&D staff.

It’s an interesting concept, this idea of measuring R&D as an investment rather than as a revenue drain. It means we have to start treating the guys in the white lab coats and pocket protectors with a little more respect.

While there has been much debate in Washington over some foreign governments’ failure to regulate intellectual property theft, an equally pointed (and just as important) debate is simmering over whether anyone in the U.S. will create any intellectual property worth stealing.

A recent study by R&D magazine and the Battelle Memorial Institute found that while the U.S. continues to lead the world in research and development, China gained 2.1% of the world R&D market share. The U.S. and Europe slipped almost 1% each.

China’s emphasis on math and science education is seen as a major driver for this increase. The study’s author told the Wall Street Journal that the solution to that problem is pretty simple %%MDASSML%% drive more R&D research in U.S. industry, and make math and science education a priority for U.S. schools.

That seems to be happening at most major American universities devoted to such pursuits. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office keeps track of such things, and the top 13 universities generated almost 1,300 patents in 2005, about the same as in 2004. For the 12th straight year, the University of California leads the way, and other major players in the space are the kinds of schools you’d expect to see: CalTech, MIT, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Michigan and Texas.

Still, we can’t wait until college to encourage creative thinking among our young people, and we shouldn’t wait for the government to drive the program. We need to show high school students, and even elementary school students what manufacturing is really all about.

Perhaps it’s something as simple as a good old-fashioned open house in your own manufacturing facility. It’s important the young people in your own community get a chance to see what you do and why it’s important %%MDASSML%% and maybe why it’s a cool job for a high school kid to want to pursue.

Locked behind the factory door, manufacturing seems imposing. You know that’s not the case. Throwing open those doors gives your community a look at what manufacturing is really all about, and that may help inspire the next generation of manufacturers.

It’s the kind of intellectual property worth sharing.