During past eras of challenge and change, our national leaders have acted decisively to create innovative partnerships to enable its universities to enhance American security and prosperity.
While engaged in the Civil War, Congress passed the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862 to forge a partnership between the federal government, the states, higher education, and industry aimed at creating universities capable of extending educational opportunities to the working class while conducting the applied research to enable American agriculture and industry to become world leaders. The results were the green revolution in agriculture that fed the world, an American manufacturing industry that became the economic engine of the twentieth century and the arsenal of democracy in two world wars, and an educated middle class that would transform the United States into the strongest nation on Earth.
In the next century, emerging from the Great Depression and World War II, Congress acted once again to strengthen this partnership by investing heavily in basic research and graduate education to build the world’s finest research universities, capable of providing the steady stream of well-educated graduates and scientific and technological innovations central to our robust economy, our vibrant culture, our vital health enterprise, and our national security in a complex, competitive, and challenging world. This expanded research partnership enabled America to win the Cold War, put a man on the Moon, and develop new technologies such as computers, the Internet, Global Positioning Systems, and new medical procedures and drugs that have contributed immensely to national prosperity, security, and public health.
Today, our nation faces new challenges, a time of rapid and profound economic, social, and political transformation driven by the growth in knowledge and innovation. A decade into the 21st century, a resurgent America must stimulate its economy, address new threats, and position itself in a competitive world transformed by technology, global competitiveness, and geopolitical change. In this milieu, educated people, the knowledge they produce, and the innovation and entrepreneurial skills they possess, particularly in the fields of science and engineering, have become the keys to America’s future.
It is essential as a nation to reaffirm and revitalize the unique partnership that has long existed among the nation’s research universities, federal government, states, and business and industry. The actions recommended will require significant policy changes, productivity enhancement, and investments on the part of each member of the research partnership. Yet they also comprise a fair and balanced program that will generate significant returns to a stronger America.