Universities vital to US's growth, ASU innovation chief tells Senate

Executive Vice President Sethuraman Panchanathan spoke on the necessity of innovation to succeed in global economics

Sethuraman "Panch" Panchanathan, executive vice president and chief research and innovation officer at ASU, testified before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Science, Oceans, Fisheries, and Weather in Washington, D.C. Tuesday afternoon to discuss the importance of innovation.

Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema introduced Panchanathan before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee as a friend and distinguished Arizonan, adding that he "has dedicated his life to public service through the advancement of education, science, technology and innovation to address challenging issues in Arizona, the United States and across the globe."

Sinema also touted Panchanathan's involvement in ASU's No. 1 in innovation ranking, an accolade the University has held for the last five years from U.S. News and World Report's annual ranking. 

RELATED: ASU named No. 1 in innovation for fifth straight year

Panchanathan began his testimony by highlighting the accomplishments humans have made in science and technology thus far and his predictions for future technological advancements. He emphasized the importance of competitive nature within society, something that was also touched on by Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, earlier in the hearing.

"Today's topic is about American competitiveness and the importance of investing in our nation's research and development footprint," Gardner said.

Panchanathan also touched on ASU's commitment to innovation, adding that, "At Arizona State University, we are focused on advancing fundamental science and discovery at scale and working seamlessly across disciplines to address global grand challenges."

People should continue innovating and competing, he said, as it's necessary to constantly cultivate and advance an inventive spirit within America. It's also imperative that a "robust foundation of basic science and technology research" exists to secure the nation as a global leader in these areas, Panchanathan said.

Panchanathan focused on four key elements of economic competitiveness, including a strong research and development ecosystem as well as a need for leadership within the industries of the future.

"There is an impending need for continuing strong investments in research and development to expand basic science and engineering research as well in focused areas of national importance in order to strengthen our economic competitiveness," he said.

A strong partnership ecosystem is also important, he said, and alliances must form between companies, corporations, non-profits and government — and the government's largest ally should be universities, Panchanathan noted.

"Companies need this rich, symbiotic relationship with universities to generate new ideas and train the highly talented workforce that is necessary for them to be successful," he said, adding that incentivizing these relationships may be the way to create the needed partnerships.

The final point in Panchanathan's plan is the need for strong economic development through research, partnerships and business ventures — something he believes ASU is already doing.

"At ASU, we have evolved a three-pronged strategy: working with the state and cities to help expand the footprint of existing companies, attracting new companies from outside Arizona (and the U.S.) and incubating new ventures to rapidly vitalize the Arizona economic development ecosystem and the state’s competitiveness," he said.


Reach the reporter at cchris42@asu.edu and follow @carrerachristma on Twitter. 

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