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Home > Press > Harnessing the Raw Materials of 21st Century Economic Growth

Abstract:
In a world in which ideas can transform the way we live, how we do business and the health of our population, innovation in science and technology will shape our future and our economic vitality.

Harnessing the Raw Materials of 21st Century Economic Growth

April 20, 2005

By Dr. Pamela Eibeck

When people think of the natural resources Texas enjoys, they think of oil, natural gas, fertile soil and productive ranchlands, among others. Yet in the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century, Texas has another natural resource, a human resource, that will assure economic growth for years to come. That resource is the human mind. More specifically, I refer to the prolific creativity of Texasí university researchers. In a world in which ideas can transform the way we live, how we do business and the health of our population, innovation in science and technology will shape our future and our economic vitality.

For example, engineering colleges in public universities throughout Texas conduct research in nanotechnology, the study of substances at the molecular level (one-billionth of a meter in size.) Researchers are investigating how materials at these minute levels behave and how we can control them. This effort has the potential to transform materials, sensors and medicine. Imagine the possibilities if humans could control how molecules fit together to create stronger and lighter materials; imagine the benefits of having a computer small enough to operate at the molecular level; and imagine the enormous human benefit if we could create sensors that constantly monitor a diabeticís blood sugar level.

Innovation in this new nano frontier is occurring at a breathtaking pace. The challenge for Texas is to speed the transformation of university-generated ideas and theories into commercial products that fuel economic growth. Engineering faculty are uniquely positioned and skilled to work with their students to cultivate original ideas that lead to the discovery and application of new knowledge. Yet few engineers have the time and interest to be concerned with venture capital and marketing plans. Our engineering colleges need to link people who create ideas with those who understand how to turn these ideas into commercial prototypes, identify investment funds and create small businesses.

This is where the Texas Nanotechnology Initiative comes in. This consortium of Texas-based universities, industry leaders, investors and government officials is dedicated to establishing Texas as a world leader in the development and commercialization of nanotechnology. The initiative works to enhance communication, collaboration and resource sharing.

On April 19, the Texas Nanotechnology Initiative is partnering with Texas Tech and the Lubbock Regional Bioscience Initiative to host the West Texas Nanotechnology Forum. Researchers will showcase to potential investors fifteen recent technical discoveries that hold promise for new products in medicine, materials, defense and advanced sensors. Will this result in an IPO next year? Probably not. But as technically savvy investors learn about Texas Techís research, see how these ideas fit with research elsewhere in the state and nation and discover possibilities for products, the overall climate for business and investment will flourish.

Resources from the land provided jobs for Texans of the 20th century. In the new millennium, pairing our universitiesí research abilities with private-sector partners will enable our state to play a pivotal role in the economic future of the nation and the world.

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Dr. Pamela Eibeck is dean of the College of Engineering at Texas Tech University.


Copyright © Dr. Pamela Eibeck

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