BUILDING A ROBUST WORKFORCE IN THE U.S. <
AMERICAN CHEMI CAL SOCIETY
241st ACS NATIONAL MEETING
From the beginning of Joseph Francisco ’s presidential succession, he has focused on one overarching theme 8212;ensuring that aspiring chemists and seasoned professionals in the U.S. have the skill sets, resources, and external environment to build and sust ain a robust workforce in the U.S. Given the historic job losses in our ent erprise in the past few years, he felt that this was by far his most import ant priority.
Last year at the ACS spring meeting, a Presidential sympos ium explored the skills needed by industry in a global environment and what universities could do to provide those skills. Also last year, President F rancisco appointed two presidential task forces, both of which have now com e to fruition. One task force completed its work late last year and develop ed the concept of an ACS international center, which would be the first pla ce a U.S. chemist would come to learn about international education, research, and employment opportunities abroad and a non U.S. chemist would come to learn about those same opportunities in the U.S.
The second task force was charged with ensuring that the U.S. remains the most innovative a nd entrepreneurial country in the world. This task force was headed b y Harvard University professor and entrepreneur George Whitesides and compr ised eminent members of the chemical enterprise from industry, academia, an d government, all with experience in entrepreneurship. They outlined the cu rrent landscape of innovation in chemistry, broadly defined; defined barrie rs and opportunities for stimulating innovation; and recommended specific p rograms that ACS could implement to help chemists become innovators and ent repreneurs and thus create new, high-paying sustainable jobs in the U.S. an d stem further job losses
The Task Force had many recommendations, which fall into four major categories.
First, the task force recommended that ACS should develop a single organizational unit—a kind of “t echnological farmers’ market”—offering affordable (or fre e) help to entrepreneurs. This unit is envisioned as supporting entrepr eneurs by facilitating more affordable access to resources that should fost er the creation of small companies from startups. Relevant resources might include information, management expertise, key services, and mentors. The unit could also support entrepreneurs in making introductions to much- needed capital and fostering partnerships with large companies. ACS staff a nd several ACS governance units are already exploring how this one-stop por tal can be implemented.
Second, the task force recommended that ACS shoul d increase its advocacy of policies at the federal and state level to im prove the business environment for entrepreneurs and startup companies. The task force suggested that ACS should urge reforms within the U.S. Pate nt and Trademark Office to assure more accurate patents and faster issuance . The USPTO has a backlog of 700,000 patents, and the slow pace of issuance is a deterrent to keeping the U.S. competitive. ACS needs to lobby for leg islative reforms, but in addition, ACS has talented unemployed members who could be of assistance to patent examiners. ACS has written to the head of the USPTO and have already heard back that they are interested in exploring a number of ideas. The task force also outlined a number of financial poli cies that if enacted could encourage large companies to partner with small ones to promote entrepreneurship. These include preferential tax treatment for repatriated income invested in U.S.-based developers of technology and making the R&D tax credit more simplified, permanent, and transferable. And there was a host of other ideas.
The thi rd recommendation urged ACS to partner more vigorously with academic ins titutions and other relevant organizations to promote awareness of career p athways and educational opportunities that involve or include entrepren eurship. The task force had several interesting suggestions that will be pu rsued by various staff and governance units.
And finally, the task force felt that ACS should increase public awareness of the value of early-st age entrepreneurship in the chemical enterprise with focused media cove rage and information targeted to federal agencies that support chemistry. I n addition, ACS should provide ways to recognize entrepreneurs publicly, to increase their visibility and enhance their opportunities for success.
I n the near future, President Francisco plans to release the entire report t o members, the public, and policymakers. If you have ideas, please se nd them to Madeleine Jacobs, m_jacobs**At_Symbol_Here**a cs.org.
As this Task Force was concluding its work, President Barack Obama delivered his January 2011 State of the Union Address. In that addres s, President Obama stated: “The first step in winning the futur e is encouraging American innovation. None of us can predict with certainty what the next big industry will be, or where the new jobs will come from. …What we can do—what America does better than anyone—is s park the creativity and imagination of our people.”
To that end, th e American Chemical Society is positioned to help stimulate entrepreneurial activities across the chemical enterprise to help spark the creativity and imagination of our country’s chemists and thereby create quality job s in the U.S.
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