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National Research Council (US) Committee on Competing in the 21st Century: Best Practice in State and Regional Innovation Initiatives. Building Hawaii's Innovation Economy: Summary of a Symposium. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2012.

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Building Hawaii's Innovation Economy: Summary of a Symposium.

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Opening Remarks


United States Senate

Senator Inouye began by praising the assembled speakers, which included “senior government, academic, and business leaders, all of them opinion makers and innovation movers.” He welcomed the National Academy of Sciences on behalf of Hawaii and asserted that, as a state, “We have what it takes. We have the intellect, the inquisitiveness, and an entrepreneurial know-how to invent and incubate a knowledge sector in Hawaii.” He noted that the state was a leader in astronomy, marine sciences, health, and alternative energy research, drawing from Hawaii’s clear atmosphere, clean ocean, mild climate, and diverse ethnic population. The state’s major weakness, he added, was “our own modesty and humility, as well as our distance from the research centers of the East Coast.” In this respect, he said, the National Academies and other visitors could help by serving as validators, advocates, match-makers, partners, and investors.

“Over these many years,” he said, “I’ve been honored to support the University of Hawaii’s research endeavors and to encourage the growth of our technology sector. It is my hope that this conference will encourage a greater intersection and connection between the two.” He said that his philosophy had been “rather simple: You build it, and they’ll come. You invest, and it will grow.”

He offered the example of the Pacific Ocean Science and Technology building, or POST, which the University of Hawaii opened in 1997 at a cost of $48 million, about half of which was covered by federal earmarks, he said. Similarly, in November of 2001 the University took possession of a $54 million Navy-built oceanographic research vessel. “With these two assets,” he said, “the University of Hawaii was able to recruit the best scientists and the brightest researchers to build an internationally renowned program. I like to believe this was a key to landing one of the 17 prestigious National Science Foundation Science and Technology Centers in the area of oceanography. These centers are the gold standard in research.”


He noted also that the mountains of Haleakala on Maui and Mauna Kea on Hawaii were home to the “world’s most prestigious astronomical observatories,” representing more than a billion dollars of investments and an annual economic impact of about $150 million. Among the investments were the $50 million Mirror Coating Facility, funded by industry, and the $300 million Advanced Technology Solar Telescope planned for Haleakala. “Each success builds on the last,” he said, enticing the world’s most acclaimed astronomers to Hawaii. A $1.2 billion, 30-meter telescope is now planned for Mauna Kea. “As I said, you build it, and they’ll come.” He said that Hawaii had also benefited from investments made in the state’s growing technology companies. Many of them, he said, have become increasingly competitive and sustainable.

He closed by touching on the issue of the recent congressional session, during which the Omnibus Spending Bill had been blocked. The primary issue, he said, had been the opposition of many members of Congress to the use of earmarks. He said that in fact spending on earmarks had been reduced since 2006 by more than 75 percent and reformed in significant ways. “We’ve made earmarks completely transparent,” he said. “And the entire Omnibus Spending Bill provided for less than three-quarters of 1 percent of federal discretionary funding.”

As an example of the value of some earmarks, he noted that the Maui High-Performance Computing Center was initially funded as an earmark in 1993 to support Air Force activities on Haleakala. “And over the years the University of Hawaii has done a fine job managing this asset,” he said, “analyzing mountains of data to gather better space situational awareness for national security. The administration and the Pentagon finally realized this should be part of the defense budget, and it is now a DoD supercomputer. Had we not initiated that valid defense requirement, which would also serve as a critical technology cornerstone in Hawaii, this would not have happened.”

The same could be said for the Joint Information Technology Center, he added, which was started by native Hawaiian businesspeople and supported by earmarks. The project provides an electronic means of insuring that all war-fighters’ medical records follow them from the war theatre through evacuation and ultimately through medical facilities throughout the United States. This system also tracks such medical resources as blood, bandages, and medication in the military inventory. “And this all came from Hawaii,” he said. “In 2010, it became part of the Defense Department’s annual budget request. Lives were saved and lives will continue to be saved.”

Copyright © 2012, National Academy of Sciences.
Bookshelf ID: NBK99276
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