A forum at Des Moines Area Community College (D-MACC) in Ankeny today focused on the economy and healthcare. Iowa State University president, Gregory Geoffroy, says the government can make a difference in creating jobs if it focuses its investment.
Geoffroy says he thought the Iowa Power Fund created under former Governor Chet Culver was a good program. Geoffroy says he was a non-voting member of the Power Fund board and saw the projects that came before the board. He says the seed money went into some “very powerful projects” and says if a few of them “hit it big its’ gonna be spectacular for the State of Iowa.” He says that’s why it is important to strategically invest in a key areas like the biosciences. Governor Branstad is reorganizing the Department of Economic Development and the way it handles business recruitment. Geoffroy says that is a good thing.
He says he’s sure the current administration will have priorities and make the kinds of investments that are needed. Geoffroy says the restructuring of the economic development organization needs to be given a chance, as it has the potential to make a difference. As an example of an investment that can pay off, Geoffroy cited the development of a lead-free solder by an I.S.U. researcher that has lead to the inventor taking home royalties of one-million dollars.
Geoffroy says the solder is now made worldwide and the university owns the patents and royalties on it. The I-S-U program shares a portion of the royalties with the inventor, so he says it has been a substantial outcome from the initial investment. Geoffroy says another thing he wants to see go along with the investment in research is the “advancement of fundamental science and knowledge.”
“So much fundamental science, the research that’s done, when it’s done you don’t know what the impact is gonna be and where it can be used,” Geoffroy says. He cites lasers and magnetic resonance imaging as examples. “Both of those were just scientific curiosities when they were first discovered and developed in laboratories,” Geoffroy says.
He says no one had any idea how important lasers and MRI techniques would become. Geoffroy says most people don’t understand how important the research is that is conducted at his school and others. He says it is a major issue and a failing of the universities that a majority of people don’t understand or appreciate the role of research and technology transfer at the schools. Geoffroy was one of several panel members in the forum.