A meeting of the Council on Competitiveness, held April 5-6 in La Jolla, CA, included a session highlighting the new California Institutes for Science and Innovation (CISI). The forum was a roundtable of presentations by representatives of three of the institutes (including the as-yet-unfunded Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society, based at UCB, but not including the California Institute for Bioengineering, Biotechnology, and Quantitative Biomedical Research, based at UCSF), followed by comments on the program from various well-known academic and industrial leaders.
The purpose of this event was twofold: (1) provide visibility and endorsements for the Governor's initiative and individual institutes and (2) promote dialogue that will lead to development of a national strategy to sustain federal funding and leverage it in a more coordinated fashion with industry and state investments in university research. Besides providing visibility for CISI, this roundtable provided preliminary thinking for planning a major UCOP-initiated conference in the fall. The event was Webcast and intended to be broadcast on UCTV. The audience included strong local participation, legislators (and members of their staffs), CEOs, and economic development leaders.
Some of the most memorable parts of this event were congratulatory and articulate comments from panelists invited to comment on the CISI program and progress to date. Charles M. Vest, President of MIT, commented that MIT has long prided itself with the acronym NIRRD (which drew laughter from the audience) for nimble, international, robust, resourceful, and diverse. In his words: "It's hard to believe that a public institution [UC] could match a private institution in these characteristics. All that has changed!" D. Allen Bromley, Yale University professor, added, "You are clearly going to provide a model for other areas in the country."
Irwin Jacobs, President of Qualcomm (a Calit² partner), commented that he thought the value of the program would come from "unanticipated outcomes that will surprise many of us." (This point was underscored by Peter Preuss, UC Regent, who commented that "the primary benefit [will be] not industries you have thought of, but those you have not articulated.") Furthermore, Jacobs hoped that the program would place a particular emphasis on education, especially research on education, to take advantage of new methods for connectivity and use of handheld devices, particularly with respect to redesign of curriculum.
Charles Kennel, Director of the UCSD Scripps Institution of Oceanography, encouraged the institute directors to "connect discovery much more quickly with decision making through use of information technologies," which is clearly a focus of Calit².
Finally, C. Judson King, Provost of UC, commented that "the competitive aspect [of the program] has been central to its quality and energy."