Today, for the second time in two years, the American Electronics Association (AeA) issued a strident call for U.S. education reform, greater investment in basic science and technology research and a more lenient visa system to encourage the world’s best and brightest engineers and entrepreneurs to come here to pursue their careers.
In a report entitled “We are still losing the competitive advantage” (see full pdf copy here, or executive summary here), the Santa Clara, Calif-based organzation noted that although awareness of America’s lagging tech competitiveness appears to have increased, very little actual progress has been made.
Congress introduced numerous bills during the last session calling for visa reform, increased R&D investment and improved science, technology, engineering, and math education. But as the report notes: “Not one of these bills was passed or ever seriously debated.”
In a letter accompanying the report, AeA CEO William Archey and Chairman Timothy Guertin describe the United States as “the proverbial frog in the pot of water, oblivious to the slowly rising temperature of a world catching up to us. Today, the heat is still rising and we are still in the pot. There is hope that we are finally feeling the heat and are poised to do something about it. Hope, but not certainty.”
Numerous signs of declining U.S. competitiveness are evident right here in the Mile-High state.
Intel Corp., for instance, is trying to sell its Colorado Springs chip-fabrication plant, while simultaneously preparing to pour billions of dollars into a new Dalian, China, plant, which promises to be cheaper to operate. In Boulder, IBM Corp. is spinning off its printing services business to Japan’s Ricoh Co.
Foreign ownership doesn’t necessarily mean layoffs and closures. Indeed, Ricoh is pledging no immediate impact on the printing division’s 500 Colorado employees. But when a company’s ownership moves abroad, priorities invariably shift, and the careers and well-being of domestic staff nearly always take precedence over those in overseas facilities.
It’s only natural that developing countries such as China and India see technology as a pathway to economic development and want to play a bigger role in biotech, electronics, software development and other growth industries. But it’s not inevitable that their rise must be accompanied by a decline in U.S. industries.
A rising tide can indeed lift all boats, if we don’t allow our own vessel to capsize and spring leaks for lack of maintenance.
Greg Jenik, chief operating officer of Colorado Springs-based Taeus International Corp., which analyzes and tracks the value of U.S. patents, notes in the AeA report that 12 of the top 20 U.S. corporate patents issued during 2006 went to foreign-based entities. “Investment flows to where it is treated best,” he says, adding: “If we are to ensure sustained long-term competitiveness, our immediate directive must be to reinvest in education and R&D.
So what does the AeA propose to address the problems?
Scroll down to the following post for more on its recommendations. . . .