California represents 22 percent; triple that of Massachusetts, the next highest. Some states, such as Massachusetts, Illinois, California, and Texas account for about two-thirds of R&D performed by computer and electronic products, whereas New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are leaders in chemical research.

Another asymmetry identified by Dr. Proenza is the degree to which the United States has an unbalanced R&D portfolio. Approximately 70 cents of every research dollar support biomedical research, while only 30 cents go to the physical sciences and engineering. “No one would advocate reducing the investment in biomedical research,” he said, “but it is important to balance that, since we anticipate that the interface between them will increasingly drive new innovations and discoveries.”

In fact, many countries succeed economically by aligning their R&D strategies with economic objectives. Other countries and cross-national organizations, Dr. Proenza said, appear to be more successful at this than the United States, especially European and Asian countries that focus on public-private partnerships to stimulate their economic development. “I think that the United States can learn a great deal from what these countries are doing,” he said. Dr. Proenza noted that in 2004 and 2008, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology attempted to address this fault in the U.S. innovation ecosystem with calls for better deployment of R&D resources and increased public-private partnerships. While CRADAs, SBIRs, STTRs and similar collaborative programs have improved the situation, there are still far too few cross-state R&D collaborations and alignment of state and federal R&D initiatives.


Concerning Ohio, Dr. Proenza said “the big question that lies ahead: Is Ohio on a path that leads to economic resurgence? When I came to the University of Akron in 1999, I often noted the irony that 20 years before I had urged the state of Georgia to emulate Ohio and its Edison programs. Then, in 1999, I found myself encouraging Ohio to emulate Georgia, which had done so much in the ensuing time while Ohio lagged.” A dozen years ago, northeast Ohio largely lacked entrepreneurial drive, risk tolerance, and innovation capital, he said. “Today, while all of the pieces are not yet in place, there is little doubt that the region is again moving in the right direction.”

As evidence, he offered a brief review of actions taken in last decade that supported a view of “cautious optimism.”

  • The founding of NorTech, an organization designed to advance industrial strengths and opportunities.
  • BioEnterprise was spun off two year later with a commitment to grow health care companies and commercialize biomedical technologies.

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