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Investments in Research Pay Big Returns for Minnesota

By University of Minnesota Interim President Jeff Ettinger and National Science Foundation Director Sethuraman Panchanathan:

Minnesotans have always been guided by values of hard work, perseverance and innovation. It is a familiar story — while past generations built this state and our nation in local mines, mills, farms and factories, many realized aspirations of economic mobility for the next generation by sending their children to college. This investment in education and Minnesota's public research university was often a ticket to the middle class and the state's economic vitality.

As the director of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and president of the University of Minnesota, we are committed to ensuring this story, emblematic of the American dream, endures. During a Twin Cities campus visit Oct. 13, we joined university leaders and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar to discuss the new innovations being led by the University of Minnesota. We are working to create pathways so that the ladders of economic mobility — built on education that provides access to critical and well-paid jobs — are within reach for every community.

Ensuring the health of those pathways means investing in research and innovation. If the U.S. wants to fortify these pathways, and rest assured that our nation will continue to shape the technology transforming our world, we must act decisively.

Though a bipartisan commitment to U.S. science and engineering research, development and education has endured for decades, funding peaked in 1964. Today, by prioritizing more avenues to science, engineering and tech industries, especially because such jobs typically entail higher wages and salaries, we can support successful futures for young Americans, reinvigorate regional economies and position the nation at the cutting edge.

The University of Minnesota has been the starting point for iconic inventions and innovations, from the pacemaker to disease-resistant crops in the last century to using AI to understand climate change's effects on agriculture and developing more sustainable plastics. Today, the U is one of America's leading research universities, ranking 14th among the nation's public universities in total research expenditures, including tens of millions of competitively earned NSF funding. The U's commitment to research and sustained investments from federal agencies like NSF fuel this legacy. Meanwhile, Minnesota has 15 Fortune 500 companies and is a fertile environment for innovation. Public-private partnerships will be key to rebuilding and maintaining the excellence we all expect from U.S. science and engineering.

Read the rest of the article in The Star Tribune.