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M. Duane Nellis Headshot

Closing "Innovation Deficit" Vital to Nation's Future

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Our nation's higher educational institutions are approaching a critical juncture in our ability to maintain and advance our research missions as global competition continues to rapidly increase.

On Wednesday, I, along with 164 university presidents and chancellors around the country, signed a letter to call on Congress and President Obama to close the "innovation deficit," which is defined as a combination of eroding federal investments in research and higher education, additional cuts due to sequestration, and the high level of resources other nations are infusing into these areas.

There are many potential factors to consider if funding is not restored to previous levels and not increased in the future, including:
  • Without innovation, we cease to contribute new advances in medicine, technology and industry, resulting in a decrease in jobs.
  • Offering our students hands-on opportunities gives them an enhanced understanding of research and better prepares them for the workforce. Without these opportunities, our workforce is weakened.
  • We will become more reliant on other countries for products and services.
The United States cannot afford to 1) make reductions to federal appropriations to universities and colleges and 2) not increase the financial commitment to our endeavors. Our country has long been a leader in innovation and research and, as a nation; we need to ask ourselves "can we withstand further decreases in investments in research and innovation at our universities?"

However, it is essential we, as universities, contribute to the solution and aid our lawmakers in the process. At Texas Tech University, we are diligent in our pursuits to leverage state and private investments to positively influence our innovation future. Of course, this is not unique to Texas Tech, as many universities around the country are seeking alternatives to continue funding their research initiatives.

As an example, the U.S. Department of Energy recently commissioned the Scaled Wind Farm Technology (SWiFT) facility, a collaborative effort between Texas Tech and private entities Sandia National Laboratories and Vestas, a leading manufacturer of wind turbines. Revenue generated from the energy produced by the wind turbines will roll back into the educational research programs developed at the university by these two companies. The results of our research will yield to additional funding opportunities as we research and create options for storage and explore avenues to distributing stored energy.

Texas Tech is conducting similar practices in other areas of discipline as well. Our colleges are passionately engaged in their research and are meeting the challenge of creating funding opportunities through partnerships and collaborative efforts.

Yet, while these synergies are important, federal funding for research is a vital component to our collective national efforts, and aid in the promotion and advancement of our global impact on innovation and research. It's important to recognize the significance of the contributions of national research universities to the nation's future economic successes.