Science and technology necessary for jobs

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 65 views 

With every passing year, science and technology grow more and more important to economic success. It is research that fuels technology's advances and creates opportunities for tomorrow. Therefore, one of the most important steps we can take as a society and as a state is to invest in research.

Throughout our region of the country, governors are committed to promoting economic-development strategies that support the growth of science and technology. In August, I hosted the Southern Governors' Association in Little Rock. This forum provided the opportunity for deep policy discussions on the issues surrounding higher education and its connection to achieving R&D and economic development priorities. While our region's R&D profile is impressive, it is not as well-known as those in other areas of the nation. We look forward to changing that.

One of the many ways we're working toward change in Arkansas is through the Arkansas Research Alliance. The ARA is focused on generating long-term economic opportunities through job-creating research. Receiving start-up operational funding from the State, the ARA is one of the best examples of a public-private partnership to be developed in recent years. I hold great promise for it to make a transformational impact on Arkansas's economic competitiveness.

The ARA invests in research that stimulates innovation, encourages collaboration and strengthens economic opportunity. Its Scholars Program links university research and economic development by allowing bright minds to concentrate on Arkansas's strongest and most commercially viable research capabilities. Current research projects include drug development, stem cell research and cutting-edge membrane technology and purification processes.

Recently, two new scholars were named to the program. Gareth Morgan is an internationally recognized scientist and clinician in the field of molecular genetics in blood cell cancers. He has joined the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences as Director of the internationally acclaimed Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy.

Meanwhile, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock has a new director of its Emerging Analytics Center. Carolina Cruz-Neira is a pioneer in the areas of virtual reality and interactive visualization. Already in her career, she has created and deployed a variety of technologies that have become standard tools in industry, government and academia.

The ARA Scholars Program uses its resources to attract or retain highly intelligent people who are on the forefront in their fields of scientific research. As we strive to create opportunities for high-paying, technology-based jobs, partners like ARA are critical in helping us concentrate our energy and resources on the most effective paths to further success and prosperity. While critical, we cannot take these partners for granted, because research is often near the bottom of the list for funding priorities.

Research doesn't yield results on a schedule, and this can deter elected officials from voting to fund it. But advances in mankind have largely tracked great research and the people who conduct it. We're fortunate that Arkansas' leaders have chosen to make this vital investment, which has already paid dividends. As we continue to foster a supportive business environment for startups and the commercialization of research, we'll see more job creation and private investment going forward.

Economic development is a long-term commitment, but one that is absolutely necessary for Arkansas.