Some argue that in this era of austerity, the US government can no longer afford to launch bold new programs aimed at making the country work better. Not so. But it’s true that big projects have to be approached differently. These days, government needs to work collaboratively with businesses, universities and community organizations to get big stuff done and boost the dynamism of the US economy.
Today, IBM is convening a conference, US Competitiveness: the Next 100 Years, to generate ideas for rekindling America’s competitiveness in the years ahead. For live blogging from the event, check in between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Please Tweet to #uscompetes.
4:45 p.m. Close – Jonathan Fanton, Roosevelt House Fellow:
“A vision of a fair, just and humane society will advance our economic gains, if we can achieve it.”
We can’t count on government alone or industries to carry the burden of our reinvention.
We’re at an inflection point. All of us need to think differently We need to take responsibility for coming up with fresh thoughts for making our economy more vital.
“It’s individual initiative we have to find ways to unleash.”
The Start: 2:00 PM
Welcome – Jennifer J. Raab, President Hunter College:
She points out that the Roosevelt House is an apt place to hold a competitiveness event. 70 years ago the US was struggling with the Great Depression and IBM was struggling to stay in business. They came together to create Social Security—the biggest accounting application of all time. Ultimately, it became the foundation for economic security for American citizens. The idea for Social Security was hatched here when FDR met with Frances Perkins, later his secretary of labor, when he was president elect in early 1933.
She says there are no more important public private partnerships than those that support public education. At Hunter College, $5000 a year in tuition will buy you a world-class education. “We’re training the next generation of America’s workforce and applying those skills to society and business.” We can’t boost our economy without creating qualified employees for the workforce.
Keynote – Bridget van Kralingen, IBM General Manager, N. America:
Our theme today is the importance of public-private partnerships in helping to restore America’s global competitiveness.
It’s needed to be the catalyst for change and innovation.
There are some great examples of public-private partnerships that helped transform society. Social Security didn’t just build a safety net. It also gave people confidence in the ability and willingness of US businesses to play a constructive role in society.
The US space program, another public-private partnership spawned a number of industries.
We believe that PPPs can play the same important role today.
We have several challenges. Economic. BRIC growth has sustained and 115 countries in the world are growing faster than the US. Our competitive environment. We talk about creating jobs. “I’d argue that if you create skills, you create jobs. Skills create jobs.” The US now ranks 7th among the OECD countries in spending on R&D—down from No. 1.
“We have a couple of dysfunctional behaviors. The recession has led to a lot of grinding and short term thinking, which works against innovation.”
“We have to create the future, not just focusing on fixing the symptoms today.”
There are great current examples of public private partnerships.
One example is a partnership of IBM and New York City. We’re creating a technical high school in Brooklyn, with two extra years of schooling. They’ll earn an associates degree. We’re in the process of announcing a similar program with the city of Chicago.
We’re also doing a partnership with New York State—investing with the state and other companies to create the next generations of chip technology.
“We put our money where our mouth is.”
We can use these partnership to drive growth and regain the US competitiveness that we need.
Here’s van Kralingen’s post on the A Smarter Planet Blog.
3 p.m. PM
Keynote – Robert Steel, Deputy Mayor, NYC
The good news is New York City is growing. Most US cities are not growing. We’ll add 1 million people in the coming decades.
We launched Plan NYC in 2007. Mayor Michael Bloomberg laid out wherewe want New York to be over the next decade. The goal is to create a sustainable city.
We have 3.7 million jobs. Health care, finance, retail and business services are the four largest categories.
Unemployment is still unacceptably high, though. We don’t want to live in a city with high unemployment. The headline number is 8.6% but it actually understates the problem. For men of color in the Bronx, the unemployment rate is probably 40%. That’s unacceptable.
Also, unemployment is longer term than in past recessions.
Jobs and innovation are the key themes for economic development.
There are four pillars of economic vitality in New York. 1) Improve the quality of life in the city. 2) Create a pro business environment. 3) Invest in the future. 4) Innovation and economic competitiveness are key.
A good example of a public-private partnership is the High Line, a former elevated rail line that has been converted to a park—which has stimulated a lot of economic development. The city invested $120 million. There’s $75 million of private money. A lot of buildings are being constructed and remodeled. Thirty buildings are done or on the drawing boards. “We look for situations where public money encourages private money.”
Concerning talent: After the financial crisis the economic development corp. in the city surveyed employers to find out the skills that would be needed for the future. The answer was science and technology. Our R&D per capita is too low. So our of this came the idea of trying to turn NYC into a new Silicon Valley. This is the Applied Sciences NYC program. We had seven submissions from a total of 17 academic institutions.
We give advice, real estate and up to $100 million in funding What do we get for it? The range of proposals goes up to a 2-million square foot campus and $2.5 billion in investment.
“This is a big idea. It’s about innovation, thinking ahead and planning. It’s about thinking ahead and changing the nature of the city’s economy.”
The Context: Robert Steel talks about the Applied Sciences NYC initiative, a public-private partnership aimed at creating a larger pool of people with technical skills in New York City.
Panel – New Thinking on Public/Private Partnerships
Moderator: Stan Litow, IBM vice president for corporate social responsibility, asks about entrepreneurialism and education
John Seely Brown – Author
No skills last that long. We have to create a disposition to learn. You have to connect to learn, and you have to learn continually. “The half life of skills today has gone down to about five years.”
In the past, people defined themselves only by what they created themselves. Today, the kids are saying: ‘I am what I create, what I share, and what other people build on.’
Kathryn Wylde –CEO, Partnership for New York City
Ronald Reagan popularized the concepts of public private partnerships. He understood that it wasn’t about business taking over government responsibilities but investing around government priorities.
We’re working with the business community to create early state investment funds. It’s a stream of activity, not one offs. We have set up technology media labs. We have startup incubation labs. We work in partnership with the city’s economic development corporation.
Robert Steel – Deputy Mayor, Economic Development, NYC
We can’t develop a clear vision of that a new science and engineering university in the city should be. We need ideas from organizations that know how to do this.
Some of the institutions are making joint submissions, and some of them chose corporations to be part of their submissions. IBM is one.
“We had a dating service for these guys to come together.”
Expect an announcement in January.
Bridget van Kralingen – IBM, General Manager, North America
You have to keep changing your business models and operating models. We’ve gone through significant changes. We are going much broader with the ecosystem of companies we partner with, and many of them are small companies and innovative startups. We have an entrepreneurships program where we’re helping more than 1000 startups develop their offerings and their business capabilities. We’ve extended it to a program with cities worldwide, called The Smarter Cities Challenge. We do a little project with each of them. We identify innovations and improvements. We offer the skills to build, produce and deliver.
John Seely Brown
We have to reinvent the notion of the land grant college which helped build the US economy in the 20th Center.
You need to have a dialogue between the universities and the ecosystem of innovation around them. It’s not one way—with all the ideas coming from the university and then being developed out in the economy.
In the Applied Science NYC project, where more than one dozen universities are making proposals for a new science and engineering university in New York, every participant will be a winner. They’re all transforming their thinking through this project.
“None of us should go to sleep tonight not worrying about the plight of public education. We’re cheating our children and other people’s children.”
“Better public education solves about nine problems.”
4 p.m. Q&A with the panel:
John Seely Brown – Author, on the role of technology in improving national competitiveness.
“Knowledge is being created so there’s too much to know. We need machines like IBM’s Watson to help us figure things out.”
Kathryn Wylde –CEO, Partnership for New York City
Robert Steel – Deputy Mayor, Economic Development, NYC, on access for people with disabilities.
“The honest answer is we’ll do a better job by having advocates keep us informed. When we have groups that have special needs, we’ll have to address it by find out what are the best practices.”
“We’re dealing with the issue of taxies. Do we retrofit every taxi or do we dispatch special taxis to help people with a disability. We’re debating the issue right now.”
New York competes not just with Chicago and LA. We have to compete with Boulder and Austin. People can live in a lot places. “Dealing with the quality of life can’t be underestimated.”
Here’s a video of John Seely Brown talking about collaborative innovation and other innovation issues:
4:15 p.m. Presentation – David McQueeney, IBM Research, talks about IBM’s Watson, the computer program that beat former grand champions at TV’s Jeopardy!
We’ve been building computing systems for 100 years, and now we’re asking computing systems to take on more and more challenging problems.
Computers can tackle thinking problems, which for a long time humans thought were reserved for out domain. Watson is one of those.
The Watson project in IBM Research shows that the kind of leaders you want in a research division are people who can pull together a large number of complex technical threads and build something that none of the individual researchers could have done by themselves.
“Watson changed the way people think about what computing might be useful for.”
McQueeney talks about the government’s capabilities for taking advantage of vast amounts of data to improve services for citizens and enable collaboration.