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Research universities boost Hub by $7B

Greater Boston's eight research universities--magnets for talent and billions of dollars in investment--will play a key role in the region's economic recovery by continuing to expand knowledge and technology that creates new industries and jobs, according to a study released Tuesday.

"Engines of Economic Growth" is a detailed report on the economic and social impact in 2000 and 2002 of Boston College, Boston University, Brandeis University, Harvard University, MIT, Northeastern University, Tufts Univer-sity and the University of Massachusetts at Boston.

In 2000 alone, the study found that the eight universities provided:

  • A $7.4 billion boost to the regional economy
  • Work for 48,750 university employees and 37,000 other workers in the region who pay millions of dollars in federal, state and local taxes
  • A talent pool of more than 31,900 graduates, many of whom stay in Boston
  • Innovative research that resulted in 264 patents, 280 commercial licenses of technology and 41 startup companies
  • Continuing education for 25,000 non-degree students
  • Numerous programs to help local K-12 schools and individual students
  • Many community cultural events, such as concerts, plays and lectures
  • Community improvements through construction of housing, streets, and increases in environmental benefits.

"Greater Boston's eight research universities are the region's special advantage: an enduring and stable economic engine, constantly changing and developing as new knowledge is gained and new technologies and industries are created," their leaders said in an introduction to a 12-page report summary.

"Collectively, our eight institutions are developers and employers of talent, incubators of business and industry, storehouses of cultural resources, research centers, purchasers, economic magnets, and community partners committed to our state and local governments.

"In the knowledge economy of the 21st century, our universities can maintain their role as generators of economic growth and jobs only as they go into new fields and continue to grow. We are committed to our essential role in assisting the Commonwealth's economic recovery."

The letter was signed by William Leahy, president of Boston College; John Silber, chancellor of Boston University; Jehuda Reinharz, president of Brandeis; Lawrence H. Summers, president of Harvard; Charles M. Vest, president of MIT; Richard M. Freeland, president of Northeastern; Lawrence S. Bacow, president of Tufts; and Jo Ann M. Gora, chancellor of the University of Massachusetts at Boston.

The report noted that the main campuses of these universities are all within a nine-mile radius of Beacon Hill and the state capitol.

"One of the greatest economic strengths of Massachusetts and the Boston metropolitan area is one that no other metropolitan area can match," said Hugh O'Neill, president of Appleseed, the New York economic research firm that produced the report. "These eight institutions for decades have been a leading source of the region's economic vitality and growth. They attract billions of federal research dollars, thousands of highly talented professionals and students from around the nation and the world, and their research is a constant generator of new ideas, new industries and new companies for the greater Boston area."

Research and technological developments at the universities contribute to creating and growing local industries, such as computing, information technology, medical devices, biotechnology and genetics. University research has also played a significant role in shaping current economic and social policies, ranging from Nobel Prize-winning theories of economic growth to long-term analyses of the Social Security system, the report said.

In the current knowledge-based economy, the impact of these universities on the community at large is more significant than at any other time in modern economic history, the report said.

International companies such as Amgen, Cisco, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer and Sun Microsystems are locating major facilities in the area to gain access to the scientific talent associated with the research universities and their affiliated hospital and research institutions concentrated in the Boston area.

The annual economic impact of more than $7 billion on the regional economy is like having the Olympic Games every year. Seven billion dollars is what New York City experts estimated would be the cumulative economic impact, from 2005 to 2012, of the construction and visitor spending for the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in New York.

The 102-page report and a 12-page summary were prepared for distribution at yesterday's Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce breakfast, attended by hundreds of university and business leaders at the Swissotel in downtown Boston.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 12, 2003.

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