FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | December 02, 2009

Technological ‘breakthroughs’ will drive economic recovery, innovation, American Chemical Society CEO says

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2009 — Technological breakthroughs based on years of basic scientific research will be a driving force in strengthening the American economy and leading our country into a robust future, the Executive Director & CEO of the American Chemical Society (ACS) predicted Tuesday at a conference on innovation and the economy.

However, to sustain that recovery, Madeleine Jacobs said America must commit itself to reinvigorating the fundamental scientific “pillars” that make innovation possible.

"Innovation fuels the economy, and science fuels innovation,” Jacobs said. ”Making predictable and sustainable investments in basic research will help our economy recover, grow, and stay strong by planting the seeds of future industries and jobs. Those investments will also pay dividends in terms of addressing major scientific challenges such as energy independence facing the U.S and the world."

Jacobs made her comments while participating in a science panel discussion at The Innovation Economy Conference, sponsored by the Aspen Institute and Intel Corp. Others participating in the panel included Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health; Brian Greene, a theoretical physicist at Columbia University and founder of the World Science Festival; and moderator Margaret Warner, a senior correspondent at the Public Broadcasting Service. To view a video of the panel discussion, go to www.aspeninstitute.org.

“As the 21st century unfolds, we must revitalize our commitment to strengthen the pillars of American innovation and competitiveness — education, basic research, and a business environment to drive innovation,” Jacobs said.

ACS does much to promote these pillars. In particular:

  • Nearly 9,000 students have participated in Project SEED since its inception in 1968.

This ACS program gives bright, economically disadvantaged high school students the opportunity to spend a summer conducting chemical laboratory research with the guidance of a chemical scientist.

  • More than 2,260 undergraduate chemical science majors have received financial and mentoring support from ACS since 1994. Much of this support has been provided through ACS Scholars, a program for underrepresented minority undergraduates. In all, more than $11.7 million in ACS Scholars scholarships have been awarded in the past 15 years.
  • In 2009, ACS provided 140 grants to high teachers for innovative teaching, 25 scholarships for veteran scientists entering teaching as a second career, and 160 scholarships for college students preparing for careers teaching high school chemistry.
  • In 2009, ACS provided 299 grants totaling nearly $20 million to support energy-related research through the ACS Petroleum Research Fund.

In 2005, the ACS Green Chemistry Institute® (ACS GCI) and global pharmaceutical corporations developed the ACS GCI Pharmaceutical Roundtable to encourage innovation while catalyzing the integration of green chemistry and green engineering in the pharmaceutical industry. The activities of the Roundtable reflect the joint belief that the pursuit of green chemistry and green engineering is imperative for a sustainable business and world environment.

However, Jacobs stressed that in addition to private, nonprofit and industrial funding, the nation must make a sustainable federal commitment to support scientific research.

“Breakthrough technologies that lead to jobs and new industries need a steady, predictable stream of federal funding to ensure technological advancement over an extended period of time,” Jacobs said. “The roller coaster funding effect — or the boom and bust cycle — for agencies like the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology, The Department of Energy Office of Science and the National Institutes of Health is detrimental to a successful American research enterprise.”

— Doug Dollemore

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