By Bridget van Kralingen
General Manager, IBM, North America
Two months ago, IBM announced plans to invest $3.6 billion over the next five years in New York to extend our leadership in semiconductor technology. Investments will be made in our East Fishkill chip fabrication plant and at Albany Nanotech, a strategic collaboration of New York, SUNY Albany, IBM and other technology companies aimed at creating the next generations of computer chip technologies. New York is investing $400 million and other corporations are chipping in another $400 million. The investments are expected to preserve or create 6,900 high-tech jobs in the state.
The alliance between IBM and New York, which blossomed into Albany Nanotech, stands out as a model for economic development and job creation in the 21st century. The state, the university and the technology companies involved all have their parochial interests, but they also have interests in common, and they find that by combining their efforts and sharing resources they can accomplish things that they could not achieve on their own.
If the United States is to remain competitive globally, it’s vital for government, business and educational leaders to reach beyond their comfort zones and forge strategic alliances that cross societal boundaries to get important things done.
(Today, IBM is convening a conference, US Competitiveness: the Next 100 Years, to generate strategies for rekindling America’s competitiveness in the years ahead. The event will be held at Roosevelt House in New York City. For live blogging from the event, check in between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on the 8th. Please Tweet to #uscompetes.)
In this era of financial instability and governmental austerity, some argue that government can no longer afford to launch bold new programs aimed at making a big difference in the lives of citizens. Efforts like the US space program, Social Security and the Internet are no longer possible. The failure of Congresses’ Supercommittee to forge a budget compromise seems to confirm this conclusion.
We, at IBM, disagree. We believe it is still possible to launch bold, world-changing initiatives and investments in our future. They just need to be approached differently, with focus on bridging gaps in political viewpoints and strengthening our nation. Today, government must work collaboratively with businesses, universities and community organizations to tackle our most demanding challenges and improve our global economic competitiveness.
New York City is in the final stages of choosing among seven competing proposals for its Applied Sciences NYC initiative. The plan is to build a new world-class science and technology campus that will be an engine for economic development for the city, an opportunity to expand for universities and a source of talent for corporations. Universities, including Stanford, NYU, Cornell and Columbia, have teamed with each other and, in some cases, industrial partners, to put together proposals, and the city has pledged to provide free land and up to $100 million in capital spending.
But science and technology education does not start at the university level. We need to create a large talent pool of people with technical skills that businesses need to be competitive. That is why IBM formed a partnership earlier this year with the New York City Department of Education, the City University of New York and NYC College of Technology to create a new public school, called P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School), which combines high school and the first two years of college. The goal is to prepare students to fill entry-level jobs in technology fields and provide them with foundational knowledge that will allow some to pursue science and math degrees in a four-year college. IBM is providing software and helping to develop the curriculum and coordinate mentoring and internships to build the skills we need to stay globally competitive. P-TECH graduates will get first crack at jobs with IBM.
Innovation is vital for improving America’s competitiveness. But while scientific and technological innovation are necessary, they’re not sufficient. We need to develop creative new approaches to solving complex problems and to making our society more productive—and public-private partnerships are one important way to do that. At a time when some of the old tried-and-true solutions don’t seem to be working, it’s time to try something that does work.