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State leaders, Vest endorse sci-tech strategy

The need for Massachusetts to compete with other states for science and technology jobs united Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, House Speaker Thomas Finneran, Senate President Robert Travaglini, and MIT President Charles M. Vest in common cause last week at the Museum of Science.

The April 7 meeting marked the first occasion where the governor, the speaker and the senate president have appeared together since Romney's inauguration. One hundred eighty-four of the state's 200 legislators have endorsed the resolution drafted by the Massachusetts Science and Technology Caucus.

Romney paid tribute to Massachusetts' science and technology resources.

Other states, he said, "look at these things longingly, not to steal them away from us but to create them in their own states.

"There's nothing wrong with that unless it undermines our own ability to keep and create new jobs," Romney told the crowd, according to a report in the Metro West Daily News.
Travaglini, Finneran and Vest strongly favored the resolution.

Vest praised Sen. David Magnani, D-Framingham, for providing "the catalytic spark for this process."

Vest noted that "just a few weeks ago, the eight research universities in metropolitan Boston released a study of our collective economic impact on the region, which amounts to more than $7 billion annually." He noted the many economic impact studies this year that have stressed the role of the state's universities and hospitals in the state economy.

"Public policy can facilitate innovation and entrepreneurship, but they require a vibrant, forward-looking private sector," Vest said.

"Science and technology are being transformed in radical new directions," he said, pointing to systems biology, nanotechnology, neuroscience, energy and environment initiatives, and new information technology.

Systems biology is moving "beyond the sequencing of the human genome to establish a new foundation for 21st-century medicine; nanotechnology, to build new materials and machines at the molecular level like nature does; neuroscience, to understand the human brain and mind to improve learning, communications and mental health, which is our most debilitating and expensive health care issue," Vest said.

Vest also pointed to energy and environmental technologies and the new information technology to better serve human purposes.

"Massachusetts universities can and will lead these revolutions," he said. The next generation of entrepreneurs has the ability to convert them to jobs and a strong economy. At a similar point three decades ago we lost the silicon computer revolution to California. We should not repeat this.

"This resolve and its bipartisan support are a great start. But all of us, including the business and financial communities, have to get on board to sustain Massachusetts' excellence and strength for the future.

"The current economic slowdown serves as a reminder that we cannot take continued growth in jobs and productivity for granted."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 16, 2003.

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