Cheek Signs Letter Urging Obama, Congress to Close Innovation Gap

Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek has joined 193 other US university leaders in signing a letter that urges President Barack Obama and members of Congress to close an “innovation deficit” by improving funding for scientific research and education.

The effort was spearheaded by the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

“At UT, we are doing great research that impacts people’s lives—but we could be doing so much more,” Cheek said. “Additional funding for research is directly linked to problem solving and job creation.”

UT is faring better than many other major public research universities, having seen a decline of only 2.7 percent in new research awards in last year ($162.7 million) compared to the previous year ($167 million), but further reductions are expected as sequestration gradually impacts the discretionary budgets of the federal agencies that primarily fund the university.

Cheek serves on the board of directors for the APLU; as chair of the group’s Commission on Food, Environment, and Renewable Resources; and as a member of the APLU Presidential Advisory Committee on Energy.

In the letter to Obama and the Congress, the universities’ leaders write:

“The combination of eroding federal investments in research and higher education, additional cuts due to sequestration, and the enormous resources other nations are pouring into these areas is creating a new kind of deficit for the United States: an innovation deficit.

“Ignoring the innovation deficit will have serious consequences: a less prepared, less highly skilled U.S. workforce, fewer U.S.-based scientific and technological breakthroughs, fewer U.S.-based patents, and fewer U.S. start-ups, products, and jobs.”

Other countries have become more competitive because they have increased their research investments and increased the number of science and engineering graduates they produce.

The letter concludes with this plea: “We call upon you to reject unsound budget cuts and recommit to strong and sustained investments in research and education. Only then can we ensure that our nation’s promise of a better tomorrow endures.”

To read the whole letter, see innovationdeficit.org.

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, ablakely@utk.edu)

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