Jump to full remarks
"We all have a role to play to ensure that the next generation of inventors—the next Marian Croak, the next Patricia Bath, the next Safra Catz—do not give up on their dreams of innovation because they lack access to opportunity."
- Gina M. Raimondo, U.S. Secretary of Commerce
"It is a time of intense global competition in every sector of science, engineering, and innovation. It is also a time of opportunity for our own nation—we have the potential to harness innovation to drive national prosperity and well-being."
- Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan, Director, National Science Foundation
"The contributions of African American inventors are innumerable, and filled with talented notable and lesser known names whose inventions have made life more convenient to our nation and the world."
- Wayne A. I. Frederick, President, Howard University
"Virginia Tech seeks to further advance innovation through its core commitment to diversity and inclusion in the STEM fields, building diverse communities of discovery comprised of global citizens with different ideas, beliefs, perspectives, experiences, identities, backgrounds, and cultures."
- Dr. Timothy Sands, President, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
"It’s not enough to expand innovation in only one geographic area, or in only a few institutions or companies. It’s not enough to support the entrepreneurial activities of some people, but not all."
- Dr. Wendy Wintersteen, President, Iowa State University
"Today, we’re intensifying our efforts to develop tomorrow’s STEM leaders, because driving the future of mobility will depend on a deep and diverse talent pool that better reflects the people who buy our products and services."
- Mary T. Barra, Chairman and CEO, General Motors Company
"It is critical that we also create an environment that welcomes all researchers and healthcare providers to ensure we have the very best people working together. This is true for COVID-19, as well as in the fight against cancer, cardiovascular, and other serious diseases."
- Dr. Giovanni Caforio, Chairman of the Board and CEO, Bristol Myers Squibb
"We cannot invent and build the best new technologies or make the greatest scientific discoveries without the creativity, insights, and unique perspectives of diverse innovators. Homogeneity is the enemy of innovation."
- Safra A. Catz, CEO, Oracle Corporation
"We look forward to sharing our successful approaches, learning from others, and helping to lead improvements in diversity and inclusion for innovators."
- Scott Frank, President and CEO, AT&T Intellectual Property, LLC
"Diversity and inclusion have been part of our DNA since our founding in 1886, when our first 14 employees included eight women. And, we hired our first female scientist in 1908 at a time when there were few opportunities for women in science."
- Jennifer Taubert, Worldwide Chairman, Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson
"This Council’s focus on fostering innovation, competitiveness, and economic growth by increasing the involvement of underrepresented groups is a key and welcomed component to ensuring America’s continued global leadership in driving innovation."
- Dr. Kathryn Guarini, Ph.D., Chief Operating Officer and Vice President for IBM Research, IBM
"There is much more work to be done. As a country, we need to ensure that every potential inventor has the opportunity—and is encouraged—to participate."
- Cristiano R. Amon, President, Qualcomm Incorporated
"As a member of this Council, we look forward to doing all we can to help improve and expand our nation’s innovation ecosystem for the benefit of all Americans, both now and in the decades to come."
- Dave A. Ricks, Chairman and CEO, Eli Lilly and Company
"All of us are committed to widen the road for women, people of color, veterans, and other underrepresented groups to contribute even more to American innovation as scientists, engineers, and inventors."
- Michael Roman, Chairman and CEO, 3M Company
"To run efficiently on all cylinders, and allow the United States to remain the most innovative country on the planet, we must ensure complete and equal access for ALL independent innovators to our national innovation ecosystem."
- Warren Tuttle, President of the Board of Directors, United Inventors Association
"The National GEM Consortium and The National Council for Expanding American Innovation share a vision of a nation energized through the process of nurturing creativity for all and celebrating the power and competitive advantage that a diverse pool of creatives can provide ..."
- Brennon Marcano, CEO, The National GEM Consortium
"Historically, inventors from underrepresented backgrounds have faced inequality in the identification and use of their talent. We need diverse inventors to bring their experiences and perspective on the inventions needed in our communities today."
- Dr. Sudip Parikh, Ph.D, CEO and Executive Publisher, American Association for the Advancement of Science
"By scaling access to high-quality STEM learning experiences in low-income communities like NSBE’s Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK), and by working collectively across sectors to facilitate systems change like the 50k Coalition, we can accelerate the nation’s ability to build wealth and social well-being for all Americans."
- Dr. Karl W. Reid, Ed. D., Co-Founder, 50K Coalition, and Executive Director, National Society of Black Engineers
"By embracing diversity and engaging those with different ideas, strengths, interests, and backgrounds, AUTM and its members work to develop and enhance innovation ecosystems across the globe."
- Dr. Stephen J. Susalka, CEO, AUTM
"What the SBA office, with its SBIR/STTR program does for small businesses in America is like my dreams and imagination, impossible to quantify, and I am deeply thankful from the bottom of my heart."
- Dr. Javier Diez, Ph.D., CEO, SubUAS, LLC and Co-founder and CTO at XTT
Full remarks from council members
Remarks as prepared for delivery at the Anita B.org Elevating Conversations Virtual Fireside Chat and at the inaugural meeting of the National Council for Expanding American Innovation.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce
Thank you Brenda for that introduction, and thank you to AnitaB.org for hosting today’s event. I’m excited to be here with Safra Catz, CEO of Oracle and one of our nation’s leading figures on promoting the inclusion of women and underrepresented groups in our technology sector.
I love what Safra said about the role diversity plays in research and scientific discovery: “Homogeneity is the enemy of innovation.”
As a former investor, I personally know that to be true—I know how desperately we need more women and underrepresented groups in our innovation economy.
The work you’re all doing to empower and advance women in science, technology, engineering, and innovation is so important for America’s economic competitiveness on the world stage.
It’s central to the President’s Build Back Better agenda.
And it’s at the heart of our work at the Department of Commerce.
That’s why I’m extremely excited to Chair our new Council for Inclusive Innovation, or CI²!
Our Council brings together leaders like Safra and 27 other members from the private and public sectors to develop new initiatives that increase diversity in the sciences, technology, engineering, invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
Under guidance from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a key Department of Commerce agency behind this initiative, the Council has already started dozens of programs to achieve that goal, and those efforts are paying off—but there’s still more work to be done.
A recent Harvard study found One study found that “if women, minorities, and children from low-income families were to invent at the same rate as white men from high-income families, there would be four times as many inventors in America as there are today.”
As we recover from the pandemic, now is the time to tap into that potential!
We all have a role to play to ensure that the next generation of inventors—the next Marian Croak, the next Patricia Bath, the next Safra Catz—do not give up on their dreams of innovation because they lack access to opportunity. We have to de-mystify the innovation ecosystem and design a more inclusive, accessible blueprint for aspiring innovators, like so many in the AnitaB community.
I look forward to collaborating with you all and exploring tangible solutions during today’s discussion. With that, I’ll turn it back over to Brenda. I’m excited for today’s discussion.
Director, National Science Foundation
I’m very excited to be part of the National Council for Expanding American Innovation. It’s wonderful to see the work that USPTO had done to make this happen, and I want to commend Director Iancu and his staff for this initiative. NSF and USPTO share many common goals, and I look forward to working together to spur innovation.
Since I became the Director of NSF earlier this year, questions about how to foster innovation and inventiveness have been a priority for me. This is an important time to be making choices about the future of innovation and technology in the United States.
It is a time of intense global competition in every sector of science, engineering, and innovation. It is also a time of opportunity for our own nation—we have the potential to harness innovation to drive national prosperity and well-being.
NSF’s mission is to promote the progress of science. Over the course of 70 years, NSF investments have strengthened our economy, advanced public health and welfare, and enhanced the lives of people across the nation through science and technology.
When we invest in basic research and STEM education, we are setting the stage for breakthroughs that can boost the economy and help solve challenges in communities around the country. We are fostering ideas and creativity that can lead to great new things.
Innovation is a key part of the process that transforms scientific research into the technology that is part of our daily lives and is helping us grow toward a high-tech future.
And when innovation succeeds, it opens up new frontiers of discovery. Science and innovation are intertwined in a virtuous cycle. It’s a cycle that helps grow our economy, create jobs, expand our knowledge base, and strengthen our communities.
The goals of the National Council for Expanding American Innovation are critical for the next era of invention and ingenuity. They are goals that will propel our economy and reinforce our global leadership.
The council’s focus on developing the human element of innovation is absolutely the right approach. The scientific enterprise is about people, and at NSF, we know that when we invest in students and learners, we see results.
The nation has a wealth of talent. The capability and drive to succeed as a scientist, engineer, or inventor exists in every community and across every demographic.
Harnessing that talent is going to require us to expand existing pathways for STEM education that can draw more young people from every background into science and technology fields. It is also going to require us to build new pathways that can reach underrepresented groups and create opportunities for them to be part of the STEM community.
To do this, partnerships are essential. I’m so pleased at the wide range of leadership on this council. Reaching the full potential of the nation’s diverse innovation talent is not just a challenge for government alone. It’s not just a challenge for industry or academia or the small business community. It’s a challenge for all of us together. And by working together, we are going to be able to come up with new ideas and approaches for inclusivity that expand the scale and reach of innovation opportunities throughout the nation.
This council has assembled a tremendous roster of expertise from across the innovation ecosystem. I look forward to working with you all to invest in a diverse future of innovation and to build an inclusive foundation for new generations of inventors and innovators.
President, Howard University
Good afternoon and thank you for this invitation to speak with you today.
I am honored and excited to join the National Council for Expanding American Innovation because of the clear pipeline of opportunities this group will develop to bring diverse innovators into the industry. At Howard University, we have developed a strategic plan to reward innovation in instruction, research, entrepreneurship, collaboration, and capacity building that maximizes our impact, and inspires our faculty and students to change the world. Thus, the timing to establish this council is perfectly aligned with our primary goals.
The council’s initiatives will also enhance our existing programs. The Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science was developed by Howard University educators with the goal of creating a STEM pipeline starting at the middle school level. Each student learns to apply computational thinking and real world problem solving in class assignments. The results include motivated students who excel in our traditional science and math classes which feature a blended learning environment and real life application of the scientific method.
Our Karsh STEM Scholars Program helps to increase the number of underrepresented minorities earning a Ph.D. or combined M.D./Ph.D. in a STEM discipline. This program provides scholarships to high-potential students whose financial situations would otherwise have prevented them from seeking the studies necessary to launch their auspicious careers. This year, the Karsh Scholars Program was awarded the Inspiring Programs in STEM Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, which recognizes colleges and universities that encourage and assist students from underrepresented groups to enter STEM fields.
Additionally, Howard University also sends more African Americans to medical school than any other school in the country. There is a dire need for more diverse physicians in the industry in order to meet the growing needs of the community by producing culturally competent doctors.
I represent a campus filled with aspiring scientists, engineers, lawyers, business executives, and researchers who will directly contribute to the future of the American ingenuity. This council will become an incubator for talent to produce many of the solutions to today’s innovation challenges.
The contributions of African American inventors are innumerable and filled with talented notable and lesser known names whose inventions have made life more convenient to our nation and the world.
In 1892, Sarah Boone’s improvements to the ironing board made her one of the first black women in U.S. history to receive a patent. The three-light traffic light was invented by Garrett Morgan in 1923, an invention he was inspired to create after witnessing a terrible car accident. Madame C.J. Walker’s hair care products established her as the first woman to become a self-made millionaire in America. The closed circuit home security system was co-invented by Mary Van Brittan Brown in 1966 as a way to ensure her personal safety while being home alone. Inventor Otis Boykin made circuit improvements to the pacemaker after losing his mother to heart failure, an invention that continues to save lives to this day. He went on to obtain 26 patents, including development of IBM computers.
I would be remiss without mentioning one of Howard’s most illustrious former faculty members, Dr. Charles R. Drew. His innovative research pushed the frontiers of medical knowledge and formed the scientific basis for the processing and preservation and blood plasma. Dr. Drew made our modern system of blood banks possible along with the untold number of lives saved through his visionary approach.
There are countless other shining examples of inventors who made products to improve our lives, but I’d like to highlight one more that demonstrates the importance of bringing talent into all facets of the innovation pipeline.
Lewis Latimer served in the military for the Union during the Civil War and afterward he took a job working in a patent law firm. He quickly excelled at drafting patents and soon expanded into making inventions. In 1880, his success caught the eye of a local lighting company that was in competition with Thomas Edison. In 1881, Latimer created and patented a carbon filament for the light bulb, which dramatically increased the life span light bulbs at that time. He was later recruited to work directly for Thomas Edison.
Mr. Latimer’s story demonstrates the importance of diversity in all aspects of the innovation pipeline. His on-the-job training provided an opportunity to learn the patent industry and excel. He was inspired by the inventions crossing his desk to look at ways that he, too, could improve existing technologies. The quality of his work opened doors to work in related fields where he invented his own patent-worthy technologies.
This type of access to information and opportunity is what the National Council for Expanding American Innovation will create in partnership with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
We are living in the optimal time in our nation’s history to establish collaborative initiatives that will not only benefit our society today, but the lives of generations to come. On behalf of myself and the faculty and students of Howard University, we look forward to helping this effort reach its full potential. Thank you.
President, Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech is pleased to join with the National Council for Expanding American Innovation to support the United States’ continued growth as a worldwide innovation leader.
NCEAI’s mission aligns with our land-grant responsibility to promote access and opportunity in service to humanity.
As a scientist and inventor, I understand the importance of innovation, invention, and patents as part of an environment that creates value though the development of new products and enterprises.
Virginia Tech seeks to further advance innovation through its core commitment to diversity and inclusion in the STEM fields, building diverse communities of discovery comprised of global citizens with different ideas, beliefs, perspectives, experiences, identities, backgrounds, and cultures.
We look forward to working with NCEAI to advance the participation of underrepresented groups in our innovation ecosystem.
President, Iowa State University
Good afternoon. It’s great to be with you, and I am excited for Iowa State to participate in the National Council for Expanding American Innovation.
The work of the council intersects with two of our most important—what I would call “mission imperatives:”
Creating more diversity in America’s professional and academic work forces...particularly in STEM fields, which represent our nation’s competitive advantage;
And creating an ecosystem for innovation and entrepreneurship, from undergraduate student start-ups, to faculty discoveries that lead to patents and commercial success...
Filling the Pipeline
With respect to diversity, we have engaged in numerous initiatives to “fill the pipeline” with talented students from underrepresented backgrounds:
For some, this engagement begins even before they are enrolled at Iowa State... Our George Washington Carver Summer Research Program brings together high school scholars and undergraduates, exposing them to STEM research, and instilling in them the value of graduate education.
We’re also working with 10 other peers in the University Innovation Alliance, to dramatically increase the number of college graduates from underrepresented and low-income backgrounds.
The NSF-funded Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate provide fellowships to help underrepresented students obtain graduate degrees in STEM fields. While the program was designed to enhance diversity in the academy, we also know that many of our graduates go on to successful careers at the companies who are here with us today.
Our Program for Women in Science and Engineering sponsors events that create greater awareness among high school girls, educators, and parents on career opportunities in STEM, and then helps to mentor these women while they are students on campus.
For our faculty, we also engage in ISU Advance—a program initially established by the National Science Foundation to promote the full participation of women and minority faculty in STEM fields.
Leveraging innovation and entrepreneurship
This intentional diversity of thought, practices, experiences and people—in turn—fosters collaboration, creativity, and problem solving that are embedded into our academic colleges... including formal degree programs, informal clubs like our solar car team, and pitch competitions that challenge students to “sell” their ideas to others.
Our newly opened Student Innovation Center offers a hands-on hub for students from any background or discipline to spark their entrepreneurial mindset... collaborating with their peers and faculty mentors to design, build, and test their ideas. It’s the petri dish where a student studying apparel design can work with students studying engineering and marketing to not only design a new piece of clothing, but also explore how to manufacture that product at scale, and how to market it to consumers.
Our CyStarters and ISU Startup Factory serve as incubators to help student entrepreneurs launch their own businesses—from barbecue sauce, to clean water and energy systems, to using drones to scout for crop damage on Iowa farms.
Iowa State is also an NSF Innovation Corps site, providing a forum for faculty and students to learn how to increase the impact of their work by exploring the commercial potential for their research.
Bringing the two together for an even greater impact
Each one of these efforts—expanding opportunities for underrepresented students and faculty, and promoting innovation and entrepreneurship—is significant in its own right. But frankly, it’s not enough. If we are truly to make a difference, then we have to merge these ideals...
Creating pathways that allow underrepresented students and faculty to take their ideas from fiction to factory;
Assisting innovators in their efforts to develop intellectual property, and secure patent protection;
And leveraging these discoveries, as leaders, to address our world’s most pressing challenges.
That’s why initiatives like the National Council for Expanding American Innovation are so vital to our future. It’s not enough to expand innovation in only one geographic area, or in only a few institutions or companies. It’s not enough to support the entrepreneurial activities of some people, but not all.
Indeed, our greatest success will come from taking an “all of the above” approach, like the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has done, to increase not only the quality, but also the velocity of our efforts.
In the spirit of America’s leading research universities, Iowa State is excited to both share and learn from our partners on the council; to harness the diverse creativity and discovery of our students and faculty; to ignite the entrepreneurial process at every level; and to be a part of expanding American innovation into every corner of our nation.
Chairman and CEO, General Motors Company
Thank you and good afternoon, everyone, it’s an honor for me and for General Motors to participate in this important initiative with this group.
I’d like to thank Secretary Ross, Director Iancu, and everyone at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for their leadership and vision in creating the National Council for Expanding American Innovation. The council’s mission is crucial, and its actions will reverberate for decades to come.
It will also improve American business for decades to come. Because that’s what diversity does. The more opinions you hear, the more options you consider, the better decisions you make. And the more successful your business becomes.
The number of women and other minorities taking part in the patent process is far too low. And that’s why we’re gathered today for the first of what I believe will be many productive and successful meetings designed to change this situation.
It’s a situation that the USPTO illustrated very clearly last year in its report called “Progress and Potential: A Profile of Women Inventors on U.S. Patents.”
It included a state-by-state look at the percentage of women inventors, and my home state of Michigan fared poorly. While Michigan accounts for a sizable volume of total U.S. patents, the number of women named on them is well below the national average.
It’s odd that the auto industry is still as male-dominated as it is, given that 80% of automotive purchase decisions are influenced by women. We need more women in the auto industry, particularly in the technology sectors.
At GM, we have many women who are great role models for younger women and students... people like Mei Cai, a GM Technical Fellow and the manager of our Energy Storage Materials Group. She is responsible for technology innovations in advanced energy storage materials for future electric vehicles.
Mei was recognized as a 2018 Asian American Engineer of the Year for her contributions in fundamental research and technology development. She is the author or co-author of more than 100 scientific publications and holds 93 issued U.S. patents with more than 90 additional pending patent applications.
Frankly, the auto industry needs more women like Mei. We have to steer more young women toward the STEM subjects, and I’m proud of GM’s efforts to do so.
This summer we announced that GM and Girl Scouts of the USA have developed an Automotive badge series for girls in K-through-5th grade, to encourage them to explore Automotive Engineering, Design and Manufacturing, and to embrace STEM subjects.
Through the GM-sponsored Automotive Badge series, girls will design their own vehicles, test prototypes, learn about design, create their own assembly line manufacturing process, consider alternative fuel sources, and more.
We’re involved in many other programs designed to get young people, particularly girls, interested in STEM. We’re a long-time sponsor with the Society of Automotive Engineers of “A World in Motion,” which teaches students about physics, motion, flight, and electronics.
We’re also a big supporter of FIRST Robotics, sponsoring dozens of high school robotics teams every year, with many young women participating.
These programs and others we support are critical because you don’t need a background in calculus to understand that we are underserving our communities, customers, and ourselves by building a tomorrow without diversity.
So today, we’re intensifying our efforts to develop tomorrow’s STEM leaders, because driving the future of mobility will depend on a deep and diverse talent pool that better reflects the people who buy our products and services.
That’s why we’re doing the big external programs I’ve described, as well as changing the way we do things internally, across the business.
Our talent acquisition team, for example, is using new metrics and technologies to ensure we are being inclusive. We’re even using software that removes up to 90% of gender bias from job descriptions to make sure we’re not unconsciously only attracting men or women to a certain job.
We also created an Inclusion Advisory Board, which will guide us in this pursuit and on our journey to become the world’s most inclusive company. The board includes both internal and external leaders and experts who will advise our senior leaders on how best to make GM a more equitable place for everyone.
In essence, that’s what this council is about, too... how best to drive equality in the world of innovation and invention.
We know women and underrepresented minorities have good ideas. We need to help them take those ideas from the abstract to the concrete... to document them, and credit them... and grow their numbers.
I have a lot of confidence that this group, working together, can make this happen, and the United States will greatly benefit as a result.
I’m proud to be a part of it—thank you very much.
Chairman of the Board and CEO, Bristol Myers Squibb
Thank you, Secretary Ross and Director Iancu, and good afternoon, everyone.
It’s a great honor to join this esteemed panel of speakers and take part in the inaugural council meeting focused on expanding diversity to drive innovation. I am Giovanni Caforio, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Bristol Myers Squibb as well as Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America trade association.
It is very fitting that we are speaking about expanding innovation in the company of the Secretary of Commerce, given the critical role that innovation plays in driving our economy, and the Director of the USPTO, which has been a global leader in promoting innovation across technologies through the protection of intellectual property.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has clearly demonstrated that we in the biomedical fields must work together to find innovative new treatments and ultimately develop a vaccine that will end the pandemic. To achieve these objectives, we are well positioned in an environment that supports innovation and protects our intellectual property. And it is critical that we also create an environment that welcomes all researchers and healthcare providers to ensure we have the very best people working together. This is true for COVID-19, as well as in the fight against cancer, cardiovascular, and other serious diseases.
Expanding the talent pool of inventors, entrepreneurs, and innovators in the U.S. and globally is essential to our future and drives our commitment to investing in diversity and inclusion. At Bristol Myers Squibb, our mission is to discover, develop, and deliver innovative medicines to help patients facing serious diseases. To realize our mission, we rely on the expertise and innovation of our scientists, engineers, clinicians, and other professionals. We know that our company is stronger because of the diversity of our workforce. Fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion is how we elicit the best ideas, drive innovation, and achieve transformative results for patients.
As industry leaders, we recognize our important role in creating the change necessary to expand the diversity of researchers and to cultivate the next generation of inventors and entrepreneurs well beyond the walls of our labs. To achieve these objectives, Bristol Myers Squibb and the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation recently announced a combined investment of $300 million over five years to accelerate efforts to address health disparities, increase diversity in clinical trials, our supplier base, and our workforce.
I want to take a few minutes to focus on how these investments will support innovation as well as the goals of the Council for Expanding American Innovation.
To increase the diversity of the scientific community, the BMS Foundation is creating a workforce development program to train 250 racially and ethnically diverse researchers to lead clinical trials in hospitals in underserved communities. By training more physician-researchers with unique backgrounds and perspectives, this program will expand the pool of principal investigators who will lead research teams and potentially discover ways to improve patient care, and ultimately help more patients.
Expanding the diversity of the research community also creates many more role models for the students of tomorrow, demonstrating that life sciences are an engaging and supportive environment for students of color. We are also working to increase clinical trial diversity by extending the reach of clinical trials into underserved patient communities in urban and rural U.S. geographies. Expanding the diversity of patients in clinical trials could lead to an increased understanding of how diseases impact different ethnicities and, ultimately, lead to innovations for more targeted therapies and better patient outcomes.
We also recognize the importance of nurturing the next generation of inventors, entrepreneurs and innovation leaders, and for this reason we invest in STEM education starting in early childhood. We have a long history of supporting STEM education in underserved communities to inspire and enable students who may not be exposed to STEM careers in their daily life. To cultivate an innovative mindset and help students develop critical thinking, we support STEM education initiatives spanning from kindergarten through post-graduate programs. We focus on underserved communities to provide programming and mentorship to diverse students to widen the funnel of those entering the STEM fields, regardless of the industry.
We are committed to building a diverse and inclusive organization, and to working to increase the opportunities for diverse researchers, suppliers, and students because our patients remind us every day that they are waiting for the next transformational medicine that may help them overcome serious disease. This is why the work of the NCEAI will be very important to inspire and develop the next generation of inventors, entrepreneurs and innovators from across our communities. Providing greater access to the innovation ecosystem will empower those who may not have access to opportunities to fully develop their potential. I look forward to working together with the NCEAI and the USPTO to create the roadmap for a sustainable strategic plan to increase inclusion of underrepresented groups in STEM fields and the IP community. As we expand innovation across the American economy and beyond, we must cultivate a diverse ecosystem that delivers the research, treatment, and medical breakthrough that benefit patients and the physicians who care for them.
CEO, Oracle Corporation
Thank you, Secretary Ross and Director Iancu, for your leadership on this important issue. It is truly an honor to serve on the council.
We all know that the United States leads the world in innovation, and our innovation economy remains strong despite historic global challenges. But we also recognize that participation in the innovation economy is uneven. Director Iancu and his team have shown us the hard data regarding participation gaps and the need to share strategies and programs designed to draw more women and underrepresented minorities into this economy. It’s not just the right thing to do for the individuals and their communities in order to expand their economic opportunities. It’s a business imperative for us all and for our nation. We cannot invent and build the best new technologies or make the greatest scientific discoveries without the creativity, insights, and unique perspectives of diverse innovators. Homogeneity is the enemy of innovation.
So, at Oracle, we believe that diverse perspectives are among our greatest strengths.
Like many of you, we have initiatives around recruitment into engineering, product development, and other technical roles. We’ve worked on expanding our outreach to a diverse talent pool through professional organizations like Women Impact Tech, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, the National Society of Black Engineers, and Grace Hopper Celebration, to name just a few. We’ve expanded internship opportunities, including through the United Negro College Fund and the Oracle Veteran Internship Program. And we’ve formed partnerships with 15 Historically Black Colleges and Universities for recruitment and STEM curriculum development.
All of these and other programs like them are incredibly important. But the threshold challenge—or opportunity, as we see it—is education. We believe this passionately. We have to expand the pipeline of qualified candidates with the skills needed to succeed in innovative industries, and we have to intervene at a much earlier stage. As an immigrant who came to this country as a small child speaking no English, I know a little something about how education can play a pivotal role in opening doors in the worlds of business and technology.
At Oracle, we focus the lion’s share of our corporate philanthropy and volunteer programs on improving and expanding educational opportunities, with the emphasis on STEM. We know we need to have innovative STEM-based programs starting at the elementary level and continuing through high school and into college.
Let me mention just a couple things Oracle has been doing to expand and improve educational opportunities. While direct financial support to public and private school programs is always welcome, and we donate to a number of outstanding groups that are helping to bridge the opportunity gap, we learned long ago that money alone is not the answer. So we tapped into the talents and experience of our amazing engineers and other professionals through the Oracle Education Foundation and Oracle Volunteers programs. Over the past six years, the Education Foundation has developed and implemented a curriculum that teaches technology and design thinking. We are teaching students coding, electrical engineering, and user-centered design. And this isn’t just a typical classroom. Our engineers work right along with the students to help them apply their learning through prototype development and testing. To date, we have united hundreds of students and volunteer instructors, coaches, and mentors.
We took that learning experience even further when we built a school right on our campus. The Oracle Education Foundation funded the construction of Design Tech High School (d.tech), a free public charter school, open to all students from multiple school districts near Oracle’s headquarters in California.
We’re incredibly proud of Oracle’s relationship with d.tech. and the swell of volunteer support from our employees working with students and staff on a daily basis on amazing projects, some of which we have showcased at Oracle Open World. It’s an incredible example of the power of thoughtful, sustained private support of public education, and we hope that other public-private partnerships like it will follow.
I share these examples not because they are the only solutions or the best solutions to a complex problem, but because they represent some concrete and practical steps that can advance diversity and inclusion in education and innovation. My colleagues and I look forward to working with all members of the council, sharing more of our experiences and learning from others. Thank you.
President and CEO, AT&T Intellectual Property, LLC
AT&T is honored to serve on the National Council for Expanding American Innovation. This is important for the future of our country. We look forward to sharing our successful approaches, learning from others, and helping to lead improvements in diversity and inclusion for innovators.
Jennifer Taubert (designee for CEO Alex Gorsky)
Worldwide Chairman, Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson
Secretary Ross, Under Secretary Iancu, Deputy Under Secretary Peter, Administrator Carranza, Director Panchanathan, and fellow council members:
I’m pleased to represent Johnson & Johnson for the launch of this important initiative to expand innovation and increase diversity within the STEM fields in the U.S.
As Worldwide Chairman of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, I’ve dedicated my entire career to healthcare. And, I’ve experienced firsthand how embracing diversity across all dimensions and fostering an inclusive culture drive the innovation that leads to life-changing medicines and interventions.
These principles are embedded in our Johnson & Johnson Credo and we view them as key to our business success. Diversity and inclusion have been part of our DNA since our founding in 1886, when our first 14 employees included eight women. And, we hired our first female scientist in 1908 at a time when there were few opportunities for women in science.
Today, as the world’s largest and most broadly-based healthcare company, we touch the lives of more than a billion people each day. To continue to meet their needs, we can never stop innovating. It’s our lifeblood.
Therefore, our workforce must reflect the diversity of all those who rely on our products to ensure we have the breadth of perspectives and unique insights that will fuel our innovation pipeline. To accomplish this, we embed diverse and inclusive approaches in recruiting and developing talent. This includes using artificial intelligence to mitigate possible gender bias in job descriptions, partnering with diverse professional organizations to attract new talent, and deepening relationships with diverse student organizations at institutions of higher learning.
Our Johnson & Johnson Employee Resource Groups, or ERGs, support various employee groups including veterans, women, Hispanics, and individuals of African ancestry. Each ERG is sponsored by a senior executive, and they provide valuable input for our talent acquisition and retention efforts, leadership development opportunities, community-based patient initiatives, and our overall culture of inclusion.
And, we hold all our leaders accountable for continuously improving by conducting annual employee surveys on employee engagement, inclusion, and living our Credo values.
In addition to taking concrete steps to ensure the diversity of our workforce, we’re also striving to do the same for the larger innovation ecosystem. For example, in 2015, we launched our WiSTEM2D initiative to increase representation of women in the fields of science, technology, engineering, math, manufacturing, and design. The program inspires girls and women of all ages in their pursuits of studies and careers in these fields. It includes youth outreach, partnerships with academic institutions, and recruitment and retention of top female technical talent.
For almost 30 years, Johnson & Johnson’s Bridge to Employment program has inspired high school students in disadvantaged communities to excel academically and pursue careers in healthcare. According to a recent survey of Bridge to Employment graduates currently working, 83% were employed in a STEM2D career.
We’ve also launched Re-Ignite, a return-to-work program for experienced professionals who have taken a break of two or more years from a STEM2D career after pausing for professional or personal pursuits such as military service, raising a family, caring for a loved one, community service, or continuing education. Since its launch in 2017, we’ve hired 43 employees through Re-Ignite.
And, because it’s important for many entrepreneurs to overcome obstacles in pursuing their early scientific discoveries, we’ve built a successful open innovation network known as Johnson & Johnson Innovation—JLABS. JLABS empowers innovators to accelerate the delivery of healthcare solutions for patients around the world. Of the 650 biotech, med-tech and consumer companies that are part of JLABS, 29% are led by women or minorities. This is compared to an industry average of 1% and 8%, respectively.
While we’re pleased with the success of our D&I efforts, we’re never satisfied. And, we know there’s much more we can do.
So, we are very proud to partner with our fellow council members who share similar goals. Strong collaboration will build the momentum needed to increase diversity in the STEM fields and expand access to innovation among underrepresented groups in the U.S. It will also contribute to enhanced opportunities for diverse inventors to see their visions become reality.
Thank you for your time today. On behalf of our CEO Alex Gorsky and the company’s Executive Committee, I’m proud for Johnson & Johnson to be part of this important initiative.
COO and Vice President for IBM Research
Thank you, Secretary Ross, Director Iancu, fellow council members, and attendees.
I am delighted to be here today with everyone virtually. I am Kathryn Guarini, the Chief Operating Officer for IBM Research, one of the world’s largest industrial research labs, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. I’m here today to share some of IBM’s best practices and programs, as well as opportunities for us all to foster an active and diverse inventor community. As you may know, innovation and the creative spirit are critical sources of energy that have powered IBM for more than a century. Patents provide a key incentive to innovate by enabling entities to protect and monetize their inventions. For IBM, innovation has been and remains at the very core of our identity.
Since 1920, IBM has received more than 140,000 U.S. patents. Last year, more than 8,500 IBM inventors, spanning 45 different U.S. states and 45 countries, contributed to the patents awarded to IBM across key technology areas such as AI, blockchain, cloud computing, quantum computing, and security. IBM inventors received a record 9,262 U.S. patents in 2019, breaking IBM’s own record for most patents ever awarded to a U.S. company and marking the company’s 27th consecutive year of U.S. patent leadership.
IBM’s membership on the National Council for Expanding American Innovation comes at a time when we as a nation continue to navigate through the challenges of COVID-19. The pandemic has heightened opportunities for this council to lay out a national strategy and define and implement actions that will help restore the American economy and drive innovation to new heights.
In the spirit of innovation, IBM has granted free access to its considerable patent portfolio to those developing technologies to help diagnose, prevent, contain, or treat coronaviruses, including COVID-19. Our pledge covers thousands of our AI patents as well as dozens of active U.S. patents in the general area of biological viruses.
This council’s focus on fostering innovation, competitiveness, and economic growth by increasing the involvement of underrepresented groups is a key and welcomed component to ensuring America’s continued global leadership in driving innovation.
IBM has consistently recognized that diversity of ideas, perspectives, and backgrounds is key to driving innovation and long-term growth. Our inventors come from varied backgrounds and enable IBM to bring life-changing products to businesses and consumers across the globe. For example, Dr. Chieko Asakawa is a female IBMer who has dedicated the past three decades to researching and developing new technologies to help transform the lives of the visually impaired. Blind since the age of 14, Dr. Asakawa’s inventions have impacted millions worldwide. Her ground-breaking invention, the Home Page Reader, has become the most widely used web-speech system in the world. In May, Dr. Asakawa was inducted into the U.S. National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Additionally, Dr. Corville Allen, an African American inventor who has accrued more than 200 patents during his 18 years at IBM, is co-chair of the Research Triangle Park chapter of Patent Champions, a vibrant and supportive forum for IBM’s inventor community. Through Patent Champions, Dr. Allen and other experienced colleagues educate and mentor would-be inventors on the path to turning clever insights into inventions. Some of Dr. Allen’s work includes developing tools that help healthcare practitioners keep pace with the relentless flow of medical literature, guidelines, trials, and articles.
To remain competitive and innovative, we continually work to ensure IBM is a diverse, welcoming, and inclusive place for our employees. We take steps to encourage all of our employees to invent, and we reward and celebrate them for their ongoing contributions. We have a vibrant Master Inventor community, which recognizes top inventors not only for their innovation, but also for how they support and foster innovation in their community. IBM has been consistently recognized for its leadership in diversity through numerous awards, and this recognition has been an important factor in our ability to recruit top diverse talent. But we know more can be done.
We observe several opportunities to encourage and develop diverse American inventors. Many individuals in underrepresented communities are exposed to few, if any, examples of inventors from similar background, socioeconomic status, or geographical area. Strengthening mentorship, expanding inventor communities, and enhancing communications with more seasoned inventors may help inspire members of underrepresented communities to obtain key innovation skills, particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).
Through our participation and investment within the Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools, known as P-TECH, IBM has established partnerships with public high schools that allow students to earn a high school diploma, non-cost associate degree, and preparation for STEM jobs or higher education. This summer, IBM announced the creation of 1,000 paid internships for P-TECH students in the United States from now until the end of next year to further support diversifying our industry. P-TECH offers a great opportunity for the USPTO and other corporate sponsors to engage and educate students, and I look forward to exploring potential partnership and outreach strategies with the council.
In closing, our strength lies in our ability to innovate in ways that benefit everyone. To do this best, we must draw from individuals with diverse backgrounds who bring varied ideas and perspectives. This council has a unique opportunity to share what we’ve learned from our respective organizations, collaborate on new approaches to promote innovation in underrepresented communities, and identify meaningful actions to drive positive and impactful changes.
I applaud the USPTO for taking this important step today. Thank you for the opportunity to participate, and I look forward to working with you all on this important initiative.
Cristiano R. Amon (designee for CEO Steven Mollenkopf)
Thank you, Secretary Ross, and Director Iancu, for your leadership on this important issue.
I am honored to join you and the other distinguished members of the council here today, and it’s a pleasure to represent Qualcomm at the inaugural meeting of the National Council on Expanding American Innovation.
Since its founding in 1985, Qualcomm has been at the forefront of wireless R&D, and our technology has driven every major cellular generation transition, enabled the smartphone as mankind’s largest technology platform, and provided the foundation for the latest release of the 5G standard.
Every “G” takes close to a decade of research and development before it is launched and commercialized. It requires a vision of the future and a focus on creating a platform for innovation that will drive the global digital economy and society.
Today, Qualcomm holds over 130,000 patents, and its patent portfolio is the most widely and extensively licensed in the wireless industry, with more than 300 licensees.
And, our technologies and products power billions of mobile devices and serve a variety of industries, including computing, networking, automotive, and the internet of things.
I began my career at Qualcomm as an engineer more than 25 years ago and I’ve seen first-hand that true innovation depends on the collective effort of the best and brightest minds. World-class R&D teams that bring a wealth of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives are the driving force behind our technological innovation.
It’s why diversity and inclusion are core corporate values at Qualcomm.
And, as we continue to drive the rollout of 5G globally, our ability to cultivate and support as many inventors and developers as possible—both within our own company and across other industries—has never been more important.
5G will be the catalyst for the next wave of digital transformation, enabling us to reimagine healthcare, education, manufacturing, retail, and entire industries.
We’ll see new business models and growth rising from 5G that will enable new opportunities and will be key to expanding an innovation-based economy in the United States.
In fact, a recent study has shown that over the next 15 years, 5G will generate $13.2 trillion in global economic growth and result in the creation of 22 million jobs.
Realizing the promise of 5G will require the world’s most talented teams to address the increasingly complex and difficult challenges in technology.
We view continued investment in STEM education, alongside diversity and inclusion, as a critical innovation imperative.
At Qualcomm, we encourage and celebrate innovation across all backgrounds, from school-age children who participate in our Thinkabit Lab programs across the country, to our engineers, who receive special recognition for patenting their inventions, and participants in our Female Founders Summit start-up competition.
Making our field more welcoming and inclusive is at the center of who we are at Qualcomm.
Our Employee Networks, which highlight our rich diversity, help create stronger communities, and our internship programs are focused on cultivating future STEM leaders.
But as we all know, there is more work to be done. As a country, we need to ensure that every potential inventor has the opportunity—and is encouraged—to participate.
The very purpose of this council is to build a more diverse and inclusive innovation economy, sharing ideas and best practices for expanding access to technological advancement, and the benefits of patenting.
From programs that expose children to invention and discovery at a young age, to building a culture of invention at companies like Qualcomm, and providing resources and training so diverse inventors can bring patented inventions to market, government, industry, and academia all play a role in creating, practicing, and realizing innovation.
We look forward to working with Secretary Ross, Director Iancu, and the other members of the council to make progress on this critical issue.
Chairman and CEO, Eli Lilly and Company
Secretary Ross, Director Iancu, and fellow council members; it’s a pleasure to be with you today, and it’s an honor to represent Lilly in support of the council’s important goal.
We agree wholeheartedly that expanding our nation’s innovation ecosystem has never been more important.
The events of the past several months—COVID-19, the resulting economic hardship, and a heightened awareness of social justice—have reminded us how important it is to anticipate major challenges and be prepared to address them, as individuals and as a society.
We’ve seen that we must work together to find answers—and that in the face of threats to the health of our economy and the health of our people, we must be flexible and ready to respond quickly with innovative solutions.
As we battle COVID-19, for example, we’re continuing to see extraordinary collaboration across our industry, academia, and government to accelerate R&D and develop safe new treatments and vaccines at record speed. We’ve made significant progress, thanks to the collective efforts of thousands of innovators, who are giving their all to conquer this devastating disease.
To build on this progress and drive the next generation of advancements, we must continue to improve our innovation ecosystem. By expanding access and opportunity, we can unleash the tremendous talents of greater numbers of Americans, spurring us on to greater achievement and global competitiveness.
This council is an excellent step in that direction, and we look forward to seeking out ways that we can encourage and provide increased access to women, people of color, veterans, and other underrepresented groups so they can succeed in careers as innovators and inventors.
At Lilly, fulfilling our purpose to make life better relies on scientific discovery and innovation. We invent and manufacture medicines that improve and sustain people’s lives.
Across the world, more than 40 million people rely on Lilly medicines every day to treat serious diseases such as diabetes, cancer, pain, and debilitating autoimmune conditions. In our labs, we’re urgently advancing new discoveries with the potential to redefine treatment expectations for these and other complex diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
And like our colleagues across the biopharmaceutical industry, we’re bringing the full force of our scientific and medical expertise to attack COVID-19—developing potential treatments to neutralize and possibly prevent the disease as the scientific community makes progress toward a vaccine.
Scientific innovation is the foundation of our business and our solemn responsibility to the many millions of people who hope for better treatments and healthier lives.
Doing this well requires great people with some of the most sought-after skills in the world—from every background and perspective.
That’s why at Lilly, we’ve been on a journey to attract and develop more women, more minorities and underrepresented people, and more people of all ages. Data are clear that companies with workforce diversity deliver better results for their customers. When results mean new medicines for some of humanity’s toughest diseases, this journey is incredibly important.
We’ve made significant progress to become a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive company. But we recognize we still have work to do, both within our company and in our communities.
And as a member of this council, we look forward to doing all we can to help improve and expand our nation’s innovation ecosystem for the benefit of all Americans, both now and in the decades to come.
Chairman and CEO, 3M Company
Thank you Secretary Ross, Undersecretary and Director Iancu, and to the council for the opportunity to address you today. More importantly, thank you for convening a group of leaders from industries and academia who are linked by a common goal: to accelerate innovation in the United States by increasing participation by underrepresented groups.
All of us are committed to widen the road for women, people of color, veterans, and other underrepresented groups to contribute even more to American innovation as scientists, engineers, and inventors.
For us, that goal is personal. Innovation is a way of life at 3M, and has been since our founding more than 100 years ago.
Born in Minnesota, we have grown into an American science and manufacturing powerhouse that does business around the world, applying science to life to help millions of people live better.
I’m proud to represent our 96,000 employees. They fuel our innovation and their efforts are well recognized—3M receives more than 3,000 patents annually from patent offices around the world. Since receiving our first patent in 1923, we have received over 122,000 patents in our corporate history.
We are a $5 billion net exporter, with plants, distribution centers, and laboratories in 29 states across the country.
Innovation is ingrained in our culture. One example is our 15% rule, which gives 3Mers the freedom to explore their own ideas. Innovation is constantly fueled by robust investments in R&D, in capital, and in the development of our people.
Every day, 3M applies science to life. Our work has never been more critical.
COVID-19 has not only strained healthcare systems, but it has also sparked a rethink and transformation of how people live, work, and communicate. The very idea of innovation, and the expectations attached to it, have fundamentally shifted. Delivering more. Delivering faster. Delivering different. Those demands raise the bar higher, but they challenge us to do more. We’re up for that challenge.
When the pandemic hit, we doubled our production of respirators almost overnight, and we’re on pace to distribute 1 billion across the U.S. by the end of 2020.
Our filtration technology is speeding the development of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics.
We’re helping economies reopen by supplying PPE to areas with expanding need, such as industrial manufacturing.
And we continue to solve other big challenges like air quality, automotive electrification, and food safety.
The pandemic has reminded all of us of the importance of collaboration: collaboration among companies, with academic institutions, and involving public-private partnerships. Full participation by diverse communities is critically important to have the best and brightest minds contribute to solving future challenges and ensure we continue to have the most innovative economy in the world.
Working together, we can do more to advance innovation and spur economic growth, which includes supporting diverse innovators from cities and neighborhoods across America.
3M knows the power of diversity, which leads to greater creativity and more impactful innovation. We are making good on our commitments. For example, we are inspiring the next generation of innovators through STEM education—from funding scholarships, to performing experiments at schools, to sponsoring robotics competitions, and offering free virtual science lessons and experiments for children studying at home during the pandemic.
Perhaps our most impactful program is our high school internship, targeted to underrepresented students in our hometown of St. Paul.
Many participants even end up coming to work for 3M—the first woman scientist to earn 100 patents at 3M, Audrey Sherman, is a former intern, and is now a mentor in the very same program. Audrey is a champion of innovation and has helped drive 3M to achieve the greatest percentage increase of patents from female scientists over the past five years, as measured by the USPTO.
Innovation also means evolution at 3M. We recently appointed Garfield Bowen as 3M’s first-ever director of social justice—focused on advancing STEM initiatives, and accelerating diversity and inclusion inside and outside 3M. And our Chief Science Advocate, Jayshree Seth, is a champion for innovation, inspiring others to see and appreciate the true value of science.
There is more we all need to do. Today, only 1 in 7 American engineers is a woman, and only 1 in 20 is an African American. We will do better.
This is a time where people look to science to solve challenges. This is a time where people look for people they can trust to make the world safer and healthier. This is a time where people look for leadership from innovative companies. This is a time for 3M, and for all of us.
We look forward to working with Secretary Ross, Undersecretary and Director Iancu, and all the members of this council, to strengthen American innovation and create a more prosperous country for all.
Intellectual property associations
President of the Board of Directors, United Inventors Association
The future of organic innovation in America is at an important crossroads. To run efficiently on all cylinders, and allow the United States to remain the most innovative country on the planet, we must ensure complete and equal access for ALL independent innovators to our national innovation ecosystem.
Never forget, tomorrow's new products, services, and companies will be created by today's visionaries.
There is no better time than RIGHT NOW to incentivize those historically excluded in our society, and offer them the skills and opportunity to change the world!
CEO, The National GEM Consortium
Imagination propels potential. The National GEM Consortium and the National Council for Expanding American Innovation share a vision of a nation energized through the process of nurturing creativity for all celebrating the power and competitive advantage that a diverse pool of creatives can provide and look forward to celebrating that potential being converted to scientific impact and a better world.
CEO and Executive Publisher, American Association for the Advancement of Science
Our country is facing unprecedented challenges that include responding to a global pandemic and dismantling systemic racism. We must continually innovate with new ideas and inventions to solve problems that disproportionately impact communities of color.
Historically, inventors from underrepresented backgrounds have faced inequality in the identification and use of their talent. We need diverse inventors to bring their experiences and perspective on the inventions needed in our communities today.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is working with the National Council for Expanding American Innovation and others to achieve equity in the invention pipeline. We expect this initiative to help propagate an innovation ecosystem that better includes diverse inventors and their inventions and benefits our economy and society.
Co-Founder, 50K Coalition, and Executive Director, National Society of Black Engineers
I’m thrilled to contribute to this groundbreaking effort to “promote and increase the participation of underrepresented groups as inventor-patentees, entrepreneurs, and innovation leaders.”
I’m here representing both the National Society of Black Engineers, or NSBE, which is one of the largest student-governed associations based in the United States, and the 50k Coalition, a national effort to produce 50,000 diverse engineers annually by 2025.
Since 1975, NSBE has been working “to increase the number of culturally responsible Black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community.” Our global membership of over 21,000 in over 700 chapters ranges from third graders to college students across the African Diaspora, from early career technical professionals, to seasoned executives in universities, government agencies, and companies worldwide.
NSBE Unlocks Potential. Cultivates Confidence. And Changes Lives.
I’m a product of NSBE’s WHY, having served as a chapter officer when I was an undergraduate at MIT and as a national chair after discovering my passion to increase awareness of engineering among the underserved and underrepresented students, initially in the local Boston and Cambridge communities.
However, when I returned to NSBE to become the executive director in 2014, despite nearly four decades of existence and the organization’s impact on its hundreds of thousands of students and alumni, African Americans were still severely underrepresented in engineering in the United States, making up just 3.5% of all bachelor’s degrees awarded, significantly less than their 13 percent representation in the general population.
Therefore, five years ago, NSBE set a bold, 10-year strategic goal to work with the nation's colleges and universities to nearly triple the number of Black engineers they graduate annually, from just over 3,500 to 10,000 degrees awarded each year by 2025.
We’ve shown significant progress since we launched the strategy. Last year, over 5,000 African Americans earned bachelor’s degrees in engineering; that’s a 45% increase since we started. Yet, they only represented 4.2% of the engineering degrees awarded, make up just 3.6% of all engineers in the workforce, and less than 1% of U.S.-born innovators.
Clearly, more has to be done, and we’re working with corporate and university partners to bring to scale our programs and influence, in part by leveraging new partnerships.
One of which is the 50k Coalition.
Four years ago, the leaders of NSBE, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), and later the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES)—representing a combined membership of over 80,000 diverse engineers—were challenged by some of our shared corporate partners to work together to broaden participation in engineering. I had recently read the article in the Stanford Innovation Review about Collective Impact, public/private partnerships that work to solve complex social problems at scale.
Collective Impact has been used successfully in communities over the past decade to reduce childhood obesity, increase kindergarten readiness, and foster college success, among other efforts.
We thought that by applying this methodology nationally—and collectively—we could finally produce the systemic change necessary to make engineering more representative of the diversity of our citizens.
Today, the 50k Coalition has 60 institutional members: 33 colleges and universities; 22 engineering societies such as the influential American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and ABET, the body that accredits all higher ed engineering programs; and five corporations such as Bechtel and Chevron.
Our plan is to grow the coalition to 250 members over the next five years, and most important, to influence the matriculation of over 34,000 incoming engineering students and the graduation of more than 50,000 seniors. To date, since the Coalition was founded, the nation’s universities have graduated 35% more women, Black, LatinX and Native American engineers annually.
Why is all this important, and how does this work relate to the work of the council? There are several major reasons.
- Engineers are trained to solve complex problems. The critical thinking, analytical reasoning and problem solving embedded in our training contributes to the innovation economy. In a recent study, half of all innovators majored in engineering as an undergraduate.
- Where there is diversity, there is innovation. A recent BCG study of 1700 companies in eight countries found that companies with above-average diversity on their management teams report higher innovation revenues by 19 percentage points than those with below-average leadership diversity. Why? Because innovation is born from the intersection of concepts, ideas, cultures, and disciplines. Author Frans Johannsson calls this The Medici Effect.
- The innovation economy could be accelerated by underrepresented groups. One study predicts that the rate of innovation in the United States would be quadrupled if groups that are currently underrepresented were to invent at the same rate as white men. Quadrupled!
By scaling access to high-quality STEM learning experiences in low-income communities like NSBE’s Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK), and by working collectively across sectors to facilitate systems change like the 50k Coalition, we can accelerate the nation’s ability to build wealth and social well-being for all Americans.
I’m thrilled that Congress and the USPTO are putting their weight behind this new grand challenge, and the 50k Coalition can’t wait to join this work to Unlock Potential, Cultivate Confidence, and Change lives.
AUTM is the non-profit leader in efforts to support the development of academic research and public-private partnerships that change the world and drive innovation forward.
By embracing diversity and engaging those with different ideas, strengths, interests, and backgrounds, AUTM and its members work to develop and enhance innovation ecosystems across the globe.
Every day, we seek to support a culture of warmth and belonging and look for ways to implement strategies that make life better, for everyone.
The National Council for Expanding American Innovation represents a critical role in this inclusive environment by facilitating the development of a national strategy to promote and expand the participation of underrepresented groups as innovators, entrepreneurs and all the other thought leaders who share a common vision. AUTM is honored to be working with the NCEAI to make this a reality.
Inventor, CEO, SubUAS, LLC, Co-founder and CTO at XTT
Secretary Ross and Director Iancu, thank you for your leadership and vision. Council members, what a pleasure to be part of this amazing team.
I would like to tell you about my entrepreneur story hoping to inspire future ones. As many entrepreneurs, I wear multiple hats, at times many fancy titles, and have moved in my journey from A to B but never in a straight path.
While my journey began overseas in Spain, after nearly 30 years, and as a U.S. citizen, I call this land my own. I was always the inquisitive kid, with big dreams and wild imagination where the impossible was possible.
My first high school essay was the best the teacher ever saw, followed perhaps by the worst. So my imagination helped me/helped me-not, and so I learned to keep it in check. Fast forward 30 years, and as a scientist and as a full professor in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Rutgers University, my imagination is as wild as it ever was, with patents in space propulsion, drones, energy, and wind turbines. But like then, I still keep it in check. Have to, in these crazy times, an objective mind is as valuable as a dreamy one.
My academic success is very much tied to that of my students. That is a secret that faculty should always share. Among my first five graduate students, I had three women in a department where there were almost none. Their success helped me get tenure. Then, I had this humble, honest, soft-spoken, brilliant Spanish student, Arturo, who was always eager to help. I never thought I would start a company, but his energy and brilliance just dragged me along into starting one after he finished his Ph.D. with me. The company is called XTT and we invented technology that increases wind turbine efficiency. This technology promises to generate over $2 billion in additional revenue per year if retrofitting worldwide turbines. We are very thankful to the NSF SBIR program that supported us. Still not a home run, but not too far, and if I jinx it, as A to B is never a straight path, it will still be my favorite one. We are doing pilots in wind farms worldwide, and I am sure there will be more to come.
So going back to that Ph.D. student, Arturo, he pushed me out of my comfort zone into this entrepreneurship path, but it was another student, Marco, that really hooked me up. We invented this drone that can fly, swim, and fly, and swim underwater again, and transition back again. Hope you got it, right? An airplane and a submarine all in one. What?! Yes. The Office of Naval Research funded us heavily at Rutgers, but also asked as to transition this to industry. A natural path that I altered by starting yet another company, SubUAS LLC. So once again, we looked at the SBIRs, this time from ONR, that gratefully funded us with four of them so far. What the SBA office, with its SBIR/STTR program does for small businesses in America is like my dreams and imagination, impossible to quantify, and I am deeply thankful from the bottom of my heart.
We have won some cool awards, some not public yet. We have grown exponentially over the last four years, and I was privileged to give talks across America for entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, to a STEM high school award banquet in New Jersey about our out of this world drone... did I say it can fly and swim? Well, it is also made in the USA and flies for near record times... did someone say package delivery?
Opportunities are endless, and I am excited to share this entrepreneur/professorship story as the success story of those I worked with both in industry and in academia. As an educator, I have mentored over 100 research students from all walks of life. I always took a few more than I could manage, or so I was always told. But I wouldn’t change a thing; as I was keeping these young minds in check, they were really helping shape mine and, in the process, succeed in industry. I was receiving, when I thought I was giving.
So there you have it, my entrepreneur journey, never a straight path, but one I hope it will inspire the ones that need it the most. There is strength in numbers, I couldn’t have done it without my students and team work. Imagination is alive and well, don’t let anyone else tell you the opposite, and always be brutally honest and keep yourself in check.