Thursday, January 15, 2009

Recession Research Funding

Back before we were even calling the current economic climate a recession, Michael Roberto at Harvard Business Publishing proposed four ways that companies could create growth despite a recession. Now, think of the United States as a very (very) big business, with basically unlimited resources for investment (as per the bailouts, recovery, and stimulus packages) and reasonable expectations for return-on-investment to quell fears about incurring - albeit tremendous - debt. Roberto's four steps are exactly what the country and science/research need right now.

Invest heavily in research and development. It is an immediate solution that will have both short term economic ramifications and long term treatment results. (More on this.) Innovation drives the economy, and without investment in basic research, innovation is stifled.

Spend some time learning about the customers of your weakest competitors.
As the biggest funder of basic researchers in the U.S., the government doesn't have much to worry about in terms of domestic competition. However, there are many scientists in this country who are struggling to get by with inadequate funding, working on projects that could benefit both American citizens and the economy if it was better supported. Now is the time to find these gems.

Identify your most critical suppliers and distributors. Much of the foreign technology coming into this country is from places that are being equally effected by the global economic downturn. By using this opportunity to forge symbiotic partnerships, the U.S. could help advance science and improve diplomatic relationships simultaneously.

Think carefully about your talent needs. There are massive layoffs happening everywhere, early-career researchers are unsure of their futures, and yet there are plenty of fields (like health care) where we are in desperate need of more workers. By investing in education for the career fields of tomorrow, we can better prepare the workforce for the steep climb out of the recession.

And if you don't believe me or Harvard, take it from one of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time: invest through the recession. It's worked before, and it will work again.

Just a little food for thought.

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