On Tuesday, a group of the nation’s most formidable business leaders — including Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Bank of America Chairman Chad Holliday – gathered in Washington, DC to deliver a full-throated warning to lawmakers: increase the federal government’s investment in energy innovation or risk losing out on a $5 trillion global industry.
“If the U.S. fails to invent new technologies and create new markets and new jobs that will drive the transformation and revitalization of the $5 trillion global energy industry, we will have lost an opportunity to lead in what is arguably the largest and most pervasive technology sector in the world,” they stated.
The seven-member group, called the American Energy Innovation Council (AEIC), also includes Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric; Norman Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin and undersecretary of the U.S. Army; John Doerr, a leading venture capitalist; Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox Corp.; and Tim Solso, CEO of Cummins Inc. The group gained national recognition in 2010 in releasing its first report, A Business Plan for America’s Energy Future, which called for a three-fold increase in federal energy innovation budgets.
This week, the group released a new report called Catalyzing American Ingenuity: The Role of Government in Energy Innovation. In a rare move for high-profile business leaders, the report directly challenges the notion that government should cut investments in technology and calls energy innovation spending “a top national priority.”
“In these debates, some argue that government serves little essential role in innovation… Based on history and on our own experiences leading innovative companies, we disagree,” states the report. “In a time of austerity, the last thing one should do is under-fund R&D and high technology priorities… to do so is the equivalent of removing an engine from an overloaded aircraft in order to reduce its weight.”