William J. Spencer
Dr. Spencer expressed his appreciation to Dr. Wessner and joined him in welcoming the participants to the day’s program and in thanking its sponsors. He singled out for thanks both Taffy Kingscott of IBM and Marc Stanley, the head of the Advanced Technology Program at NIST, which is housed at the U.S. Department of Commerce, and acknowledged the contributions of Intel and Sandia. He introduced the symposium, as one of a series that will be organized by the STEP Board over several years. Dr. Spencer posited that a poll of those present would show relatively strong agreement that technology plays an important role in economic growth irrespective of region. He further suggested that there would be fairly uniform agreement that technology is leading to better quality of life, although he noted such dissenting voices as that of Bill McKibben, whose Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age raised questions about germ-cell engineering, and of Bill Joy, the former chief scientist at Sun Microsystems, who had expressed concern about nanorobotics.2
FUNDING INNOVATION: PRIVATE OR PUBLIC?
There would likely be a divergence of opinion, however, if the subject was focused on who should fund science and technology. When it came to long-term research, most of us would probably agree that government should play a major role whether the research is “curiosity driven” or “problem driven”—that is,
whether it dealt with things like string theory or quantum gravity that explain the universe, or with such questions as why some individuals have genes that are susceptible to disease and others do not. But when it comes to who should fund the innovations coming out of this long-term research, said Dr. Spencer, “I suspect the opinions would be more divergent.” The purpose of the day’s symposium, and of any follow-on meetings for which STEP might obtain the resources, was to try to gather facts on how innovation and technology transfer were being funded in the various economic regions, and in particular on the roles of private and of public funding.
Pointing out that any future meetings in the series on Comparative Innovation Policy would be principally organized by a steering committee, he recognized the members of that panel who were in attendance—Mark Myers, Lonnie Edelheit, Alan William Wolff, Alice Amsden, and Kenneth Flamm.3
Dr. Spencer then turned the microphone over to Bradley Knox, a member of the staff of the House Committee on Small Business, who chaired the opening session.