UO president says innovation deficit threatens economic security

Michael Gottfredson, UO president
Michael Gottfredson, UO president

In written remarks to the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, UO President Michael R. Gottfredson says federal support for research and higher education has helped Oregon universities make positive contributions to the state's economy, but funding cuts threaten the nation's economic security.

Gottfredson's testimony was among many written statements submitted to the committee's Tuesday meeting on "Driving Innovation through Federal Investments." The hearing comes at a time of continued cuts to research funding related to sequestration and a push to reduce federal spending including student aid.

"The attention this hearing brings to issues of innovation is important and an opportunity for policymakers to make the case for closing the innovation deficit — the widening gap between the level of government funding for research and higher education and what that investment needs to be if the U.S. is to remain the world’s innovation leader," Gottfredson said.

In his two-page testimony he noted how federal research grants to the UO, Oregon State University, Portland State University and Oregon Health & Science University, including those through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, have helped protect Oregon's economy, particularly during the recession that began in 2008. Federal student aid through Pell grants in 2012-13 also helped to support 5,394 students at the UO, he said.

"Thanks to federal support for research and higher education, the University of Oregon has been able to make positive contributions to Oregon’s economy," he said. "We are proud that the University of Oregon is among the top universities in the nation for translating discovery into practical applications per federal research dollar invested."

He also outlined collaborative state- and business-supported efforts in Oregon to build "an innovation culture that will leverage federal investment to create jobs and new economic activity." He additionally noted how federal innovation investments have contributed to the Regional Accelerator & Innovation Network (RAIN) that leverages the regional strengths of the South Willamette Valley to generate innovation-based companies.

"But, more remains to be done," he said. "Oregon’s research institutions suffered a $68 million reduction in research grants as a result of sequestration in 2013. While I am proud of the significant commitment my institution makes to student aid and our ability to leverage the Federal Pell Grant program through the University of Oregon’s Pathway Oregon program, I am acutely aware that eroding federal support for student aid threatens educational attainment. The single greatest threat to an Oregon student’s ability to finish a degree is financial insecurity."

-- Jim Barlow, Public Affairs Communications