The state of the Texas economy is strong, thanks to its focus on education and technology.
So said Gov. Rick Perry in an address at the TechNet Innovation Forum “Creating to Compete” at UTD Sept. 8. The address took place in the Texas Instruments Foundation Auditorium of the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS).
Speakers at the forum voiced the importance of progressive technology and education agendas in keeping the Texas and U.S. economies viable internationally.
“Knowledge and technology are the new currencies for growth in Texas,” Perry said.
The governor referred to advances at UTD as evidence that the state has invested wisely in technological pursuits he hopes will create jobs and lead to prosperity.
Perry credited the state legislature for buoying education in Texas with $7.1 million added funding since 1990. The increased investment has resulted in better academic performance and raised Texas to rank among the top 10 states for passing rates in math, reading and writing assessment tests.
Steve Papermaster, chairman of Powershift Ventures, LP, introduced the governor by focusing on the importance of innovation in Texas.
“Innovation (is) critical,” Papermaster said. “It’s the key, not just to security, (but for) economic growth. It’s critical for Texas to be a leader, and that requires a ‘frontier spirit.'”
Following Perry’s address, a panel discussion featuring ECS Dean Robert Helms and specialists from Texas Instruments (TI), Nanotechnologies, Inc. and SEMATECH highlighted the education and technological innovations necessary to compete.
Helms reminded the audience that the new research building for Natural Science and Engineering breaks ground Nov. 15, coinciding with the $300 million commitment the state has made to bolster engineering and computer science.
Despite UTD’s recent infusion of funding, Helms claimed interest in engineering careers has declined 30 percent during the last 10 years, to the point where 1.8 percent of U.S. 24-year-olds have degrees in engineering, compared to 5 percent in Japan.
Fellow panelist and Senior Fellow and Technology Strategy Manager for TI Robert Doering suggested that the negative trends could be reversed by generating more interest in grades K-12 for all the sciences.
The final two panelists discussed the potential of nanotechnology. Chief Technology Officer of Nanotechnologies, Inc., Dennis Wilson said nanotech could be “the next space program.”
External Programs Director for SEMATECH Randy Goodall narrowed the scope of the nanotech discussion to Texas, pointing to the need for more research centers in the Southwest.
“Texas is the world’s tenth largest economy,” Goodall said. “It’s time to step up and be no. 10.”