Boulder Economic Council Summit Welcome

Welcome to campus and the Wolf Law Building.

I’m pleased that CU-Boulder is a presenting sponsor of the Boulder Economic Council Summit for the sixth consecutive year.

I would like to acknowledge some specials guest and speakers who are with us today for this important conference.

  • Congressmen Mark Udall
  • Congressman Jared Polis
  • CSU Chancellor Michael Martin
  • Former Congressman David Skaggs
  • Peter Henderson, director of the Board on Higher Education and Workforce for the National Research Council.

Since we will be examining today how greater collaboration between industry, government and research universities create economic opportunities for our region, state and nation, it’s timely for me to mention one of the best examples we have on campus of the benefits of long-term research and development.

I’m referring to the scheduled launch in November of the newest Mars explorer, MAVEN -the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission.

  • It’s the largest research contract in CU’s history at $485 million, adding nearly $200M to the Colorado economy
  • Over 100 CU undergraduate and graduate students are working on MAVEN and other projects in our Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, providing these students with practical experiences to prepare them for a career in aerospace science and engineering.
  • CU is providing the science operations, the space instruments and the public education outreach for the mission.

MAVEN has created many jobs across the country in the aerospace industry and has added to the research prowess of the nation and contributing to Colorado’s No. 3 position in the nation’s space economy based on employment. This is a glowing example of partnerships between the university, industry (Lockheed Martin and United Launch Alliance) and government (NASA). It’s truly a shining product of Colorado’s research ecosystem.
But collaborations like MAVEN, that produce unique science and new businesses—the lifeblood of our competitive advantage globally—face threats in the future through diminished investments by our government and our industry.

Today, our challenge is to identify a better framework for building dynamic partnerships between government, industry and research institutions. Only then will we be able to rise up and meet the challenges we are discussing today.

To preface today’s program, I will spend a few minutes talking about threats to Colorado’s research ecosystem as well as opportunities to combat those threats offered in the National Research Council report entitled, “Research Universities and the Future of America.” This morning, Peter Henderson of the NRC, will lead a panel on the report’s 10 breakthrough actions.


Threats to Colorado’s research ecosystem come from several directions.

  • State funding for higher education has been eroding for two decades.
  • Federal funding for university research has been unstable, declining and further complicated by sequestration. At the same time other countries are increasing their R&D funding. Sen. Udall will talk more about that in a moment.
  • Corporate research labs that played an important role in driving research and development in the 20th century, such as the labs at Bell, IBM and Eastman-Kodak have been dismantled and industry has not fully partnered with research universities to fill the void.
  • Research universities face growing competition from universities abroad for the best-and-brightest international students and scholars, who are an important part of our nation’s research competiveness.
  • A narrowing pipeline of doctoral students across fields critical to our research ecosystem and our nation’s future. It’s incumbent on universities, with help from the federal government, to clear obstructions to graduate education.


Amid these challenges, what are our opportunities? They can be found in the NRC report, which you will hear referenced frequently today.

The NRC calls for strengthening linkages between research universities, the business community and state and federal government to knock down the walls stalling the potential of our nation’s research ecosystem.

Of these I would like to focus for a moment on the NRC’s call for university-industry partnerships, because this is an area where CU has done significant work this spring.

We have made it a top priority to maintain our strong federal and industry partners here in Colorado with Ball, UCAR, NREL, and NOAA.

Earlier this year, we formalized an Office for Industry and Special Opportunity to more readily connect the university with industry partners in research collaborations, student internships and joint initiatives which will make positive contributions to the state and local economy.

I have tasked a university team with simplifying the process of connecting industry with CU’s intellectual and physical capital to build a research infrastructure for the benefit of industry, the state, the university and the economy.

Secondly, last month I announced the formation of a Strategic Advisory Council composed of 11 innovative leaders to help us better serve students, generate support for new research collaborations, and revise our campus fiscal and organizational models to promote greater efficiency. It’s a priority of mine to ensure that my administration hears directly from industry leaders representing some of Colorado’s greatest areas of strength. They are:

  • Norm Augustine, retired chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin.
  • Pamela Drew, President, Information Systems, Exelis, Inc.
  • Entrepreneur Brad Feld, managing director of the Foundry Group, and a recent keynote speaker at this event.
  • Allison Keller, executive director and CFO of the W.M. Keck Foundation and President of Oakmont Corporation.
  • Private investor Denise M. O’Leary.
  • Bill Reinert, national manager of advanced technology for Toyota Motor Sales, USA.
  • Todd Rulon-Miller, founding partner Apogee Venture Group.
  • Mark Sirangelo, vice president of Sierra Nevada Corp., who is with us today, on the first panel.
  • Robert Strain, president of Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.
  • Phil Washington, Regional Transportation District general manager
  • Earl Wright, CEO of AMG National Trust Bank

They will help us with the challenges that public higher education faces in this era of transformation. I am looking forward to convening our first meeting next month.

In addition to stronger partnerships, the NRC in its report specifically recommends 10 actions that Congress, federal and state governments and research universities should take to ensure the success of the research ecosystem.

Four in particular address specific university actions.

  • Improve university productivity so savings can be invested in student and research priorities.
  • Reform graduate education to produce more doctorates in critical fields for education, research and the workplace.
  • Clear pathways for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education, (STEM), including those for women and underrepresented minorities, so our country can remain competitive in the STEM fields amid stringent international competition.
  • Ensure that we continue to strongly benefit from the participation of international students and scholars in our national research enterprise.

Congressman Polis will lead us in a discussion on these last three, later this morning, in a session called “Building a Workforce Ready for the Future.”

I’m proud that CU-Boulder has initiatives in all these areas.

In university productivity we have reduced administrative overhead to 44% below our national peers; and the new advisory committee I just described will assist us in identifying new efficiencies.

To reform graduate education we must first enhance pathways for talented undergraduates. To do this, we have embarked on a series of student success initiatives. We have more than 1,000 undergraduates engaged in research activities

In STEM education, we opened a Center for STEM Learning last fall, bringing 50 campus STEM K-12 programs together.

To internationalize the campus, a successful International Student Recruitment Initiative has resulted in a projected doubling of international students on campus: from 1,500 in 2011 to nearly 3,000 in 2015 based on current growth. This will represent 10% of our student population, a goal that puts us years ahead of schedule.

So are we done? No, we are just getting started. But we all must work in concert – the university, industry and government – to greater leverage our potential to complete the ecosystem of research to advance the economy, culture and health of the state and the nation.

We’ve got work to do. So let’s begin. Thank you.