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Wednesday, 30 November 2016 07:50

Big innovations require big investment

Big innovations require big investment

By Jeffrey D. Sachs   


  NOVEMBER 27, 2016





Part of a weekly series on the economic choices facing the United States and its relations with the rest of the world. For previous entries, click here.  


Of all of the purposes of government, one of the most important but often neglected is to mobilize science and technology to solve critical challenges. Modern society depends on highly complex technological systems for our safety and prosperity. Without these advanced technological systems, we’d have no chance to sustain national prosperity, much less to meet the basic material needs of a global population of 7.4 billion people. Yet managing and improving those technologies requires a large and sustained investment by government alongside business and academia.

The key idea here is “directed technological change,” meaning that scientists and engineers are pulled together to solve a complex challenge in the national interest. The challenge is not only important and solvable, but because of its nature, is not the kind of challenge that the private sector alone will solve in a timely way on a for-profit basis.

Modern American history is replete with such endeavors. No doubt the most famous and consequential of all was the Manhattan Project during World War II. It is a stunning example of directed scientific and technological effort, showing how the most complex and cutting-edge scientific challenge can be met through targeted investments.


In 1938, on the eve of World War II, European physicists discovered the principle of nuclear fission (splitting an atom by a neutron, releasing enormous energy and more neutrons) and the possibility of a nuclear chain reaction. Within a year, physicists realized that this could lead to a new kind of atomic bomb and the threat that Nazi Germany might get there first. Albert Einstein and Edward Szilard wrote a world-changing letter to President Franklin Roosevelt advising the president of this risk and urging a US effort to develop such a weapon before Germany.


The Manhattan Project got underway intensively in 1942 and culminated in the atomic bomb in 1945. The project engaged many of the world’s leading physicists in the effort and led to countless scientific and technological breakthroughs in a three-year period. Thus was born the nuclear era. The mobilization of great minds, national laboratories, and private companies in pursuit of well-defined objectives is therefore not a quixotic quest. The lessons of the Manhattan Project were taken up after World War II in many important areas of national security, public health, new technologies, and general science. From the birth of modern computing, to the polio vaccine and the space age, to the human genome and the Internet, directed technological change has repeatedly shaped and advanced the US economy and the modern world.

These efforts are all characterized by highly complex challenges; a sense of national urgency; and a mix of academic, philanthropic, commercial, and government organizations and financing.


Consider Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine, developed half a century ago. The main financing came through a nonprofit organization (popularly known as the March of Dimes) launched by FDR in 1938. Jonas Salk led a scientific team at the University of Pittsburgh for seven years, from 1947 to 1954, to develop the vaccine. In 1955, the vaccine was tested and massively disseminated in an unprecedented public health campaign that engaged governments at all levels. Salk’s vaccine, followed by Albert Sabin’s vaccine a few years later, ended the US epidemic. Polio is now on the verge of global eradication. When asked who owned the patent on the polio vaccine, Salk famously replied, “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”


As with the Manhattan Project, the US space effort was launched as a national security effort, part of the Cold War competition with the Soviet Union. After the Soviet Union successfully launched the Sputnik satellite, in 1957, the US ramped up its own efforts. In May 1961, President John F. Kennedy inspired the nation with his call for America to commit itself to “achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.” The United States thereafter spent around 0.5 percent of GDP each year for the balance of the decade to support NASA’s successful moon effort, mobilizing an estimated 500,000 workers and 20,000 companies. The spillovers in computing, semiconductors, aeronautics, telecommunications, materials sciences, and countless other areas of science and technology have of course been profound.


The Internet was similarly given birth in a US government effort again linked to national security. In this case, the Defense Department was interested in creating a network of computers that could support a resilient command-and-control system military, supported by a geographically dispersed access to a few major computer centers around the country. The core building blocks of the Internet were developed as part of the Defense Department’s ARPANET project that ran from the late 1960s until 1990. Building on ARPANET, the US National Science Foundation during the 1980s established and developed a network linking major US universities. From the 1990s onward, these publicly financed efforts became the foundation of the Internet and the vast commercial business world built upon it.

The list of such targeted technology efforts is long and inspiring. Moore’s Law, the repeated doubling of computer power roughly every two years since the late 1950s, builds on industry and government technology roadmaps. The Human Genome Project, to map the human genome, was a breakthrough program during 1990-2003 that engaged leaders in academic biology, private biotech startups, and major government research centers in the United States and abroad; the continuing spillovers in countless areas of public health, medicine, agronomy, archeology, anthropology, and many other disciplines remain vast. Even hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) to produce oil and gas from shale rock depended on the early initiatives of the US Geological Survey.

For these reasons, the frequently heard political complaints about federal funding of early-stage technologies (e.g., of the solar company Solyndra or electric vehicle Tesla) seriously miss the point of the key role of publicly supported R&D in delivering cutting-edge technologies (a point well documented by economist Mariana Mazzucato in her book “The Entrepreneurial State’’). Not every R&D project bears fruit, to be sure; such is the nature of cutting-edge research. Yet the track record of public-private-academic-philanthropic partnerships to advance science and technologies in critical areas is a key pillar of America’s prosperity and technological excellence.

One of the threats to America’s well-being indeed is the current insufficiency of such efforts in areas of critical need. There are many highly promising and crucially important areas of R&D where purely private and profit-driven efforts based on the incentives from patenting are falling far short of social needs.


Compare, for example, the $30 billion per year funding that is directed to biomedical science through the National Institutes of Health (itself too low a budget) with the mere $7 billion per year that is currently spent by the federal government on research into renewable or other low-carbon energy technologies. The threat of climate change is on the scale of trillions of dollars of damages per year, and the solutions depend on the rapid transition from fossil-fuel-based energy to zero-carbon alternatives.

Consider two promising areas of energy research. The successful ramp-up of renewable energy depends in part on low-cost, highly reliable batteries with higher energy density (energy per unit weight). Battery technology is a major scientific and technological challenge, with the need for extensive research, much of it by highly sophisticated trial and error. Yet federal battery research is estimated to be around $300 million per year, a small fraction of the amount that could be usefully deployed by the nation’s laboratories and universities.

Another case is carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, the only climate-safe way to deploy fossil fuels in the future. Some technologies are attracting private capital, but much of the science (such as the geological research) is almost entirely a public good that requires public rather than private financing. Worldwide, the scale of public financing for R&D related to CCS remains minuscule, and clouds the prospects of any potential significant and timely deployment.

Other areas crying out for greater public investments in R&D include: smart grid systems to manage 21st-century infrastructure; fourth-generation nuclear energy; advanced materials sciences for environmental sustainability; the early identification and control of emerging epidemic diseases such as Zika and Ebola viruses; advanced agricultural technologies for crop resilience to climate change; improved nutrition; geriatric medicine (including the soaring costs of Alzheimer’s disease); and improved cyber-security, including for important e-governance functions such as online voting.


Because of America’s chronic underfinancing of discretionary public spending, America’s technological leadership is being undermined. Yes, America is home to more of the world’s leading universities than any other country, and still has the greatest depth of scientific and engineering capacity, yet the chronic under-investment in cutting-edge science and technology puts the US technological capacity at risk.

Measuring R&D as a share of national income, the United States now ranks ninth among high-income countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. US R&D outlays are around 2.7 percent of national income, compared with more than 4.0 percent of GDP in Korea and Israel, and more than 3.0 percent of GDP in Denmark, Finland, Germany, Japan, and Norway. In total dollars, China is currently around three-fourths of US outlays, and is very likely to overtake the United States during the coming decade on current trends.

As in past grand, projects should be guided by urgent public needs, and by areas where public financing is vital because private financing is inappropriate. That includes areas of basic science (where patents simply make no sense); challenges where market-based approaches are inappropriate (such as control of epidemic diseases); goals that depend on the very rapid uptake of new technologies, so that private patents would clog rather than accelerate deployment (smart power-grid protocols for integrating intermittent renewable energy); and goals that involve major social policies regarding risk and liability (nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage).


In many areas, such as disease control, crop productivity, and zero-carbon energy, much of the effort should be global, with costs and benefits shared across the world. Just as the moonshot eventually turned into significant global cooperation in space, our global-scale challenges also behoove us to create international as well as national frameworks for expanded R&D. The Department of Energy under Secretary Ernie Moniz is currently engaging 21 other countries to expand R&D on low-carbon energy, in the Mission Innovation Initiative. In this case, private-sector investors led by Bill Gates are stepping up alongside the government to invest “patient capital” in early-stage technologies.

Here is my recommendation for President-elect Trump and the incoming Congress. Turn to our glorious national scientific institutions: the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, for a 2017 report to the nation on the most promising areas for directed research and development in the years to 2030. Ask the academies to recommend a strategy for ramping up the national R&D efforts. Call on America’s research universities to add their own brainstorming alongside the National Academies. When the report is issued, late in 2017, the president and Congress should meet in a joint session of Congress to set forth a new technology vision for the nation and a new R&D strategy to achieve it. Jeffrey D. Sachs is University Professor and Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, and author of “The Age of Sustainable Development.”  


Wednesday, 30 November 2016 07:47

Big innovations require big investment


 è lieta di invitare la S.V. il 9 Novembre ore 17 all' inaugurazione dell’Anno Accademico AISES 2016/2017

Auditorium dell’Accademia delle Belle Arti, Via Ripetta, 222 – Roma

“Il Futuro delle Città tra Cultura, Integrazione e Sostenibilità” 


 Dopo i saluti di Mario ALÌ, Presidente dell’Accademia delle Belle Arti di Roma, e la relazione introduttiva di Valerio DE LUCA, Presidente dell’Accademia AISES, l’evento vedrà la partecipazione di Virginia RAGGI, Sindaco di Roma, come Guest Speaker.

Seguiranno gli interventi di Edith ARBIB ANAV, Responsabile AISES per il Dialogo Interreligioso, Riccardo DI SEGNI, Rabbino Capo di Roma e Andreina DRAGHI, Responsabile AISES per la Cultura e Sviluppo.

Le conclusioni saranno affidate a S.E.R. Mons. Lorenzo LEUZZI, Vescovo Ausiliare di Roma
Modera Paolo MESSA, Direttore del Centro Studi Americani e Socio AISES 

 È possibile visualizzare il programma completo nel file in allegato.



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Roma, 8 Settembre 2016 

Il Workshop organizzato dall’Accademia Internazionale AISES congiuntamente con Universal Trust s.r.l., rappresentata dal CEO Pierpaolo Abet, si è tenuto l’8 Settembre nell’Università LUMSA di Roma sui temi della Sharing Economy, Digital Transformation and Responsible Business con illustri relatori tra i quali, Marco Alberti, Head of International Institutional Affairs ENEL, Raffaele Boccardo, President and CEO BV Tech s.p.a, Alessandro Grandinetti, Senior Partner PWC, Gianluca Landolina, CEO Galata Spa – Cellnex Telecom Group, Andrea Nativi, Vice President Competitive Analysis & Strategic Planning – Leonardo ed Eugenio Sidoli, President and CEO Philip Morris Italia. 


Valerio De Luca, Presidente AISES, ha aperto i lavori,  mentre S.E. l’Ambasciatore della Repubblica Sudafricana in Italia Nomatemba Tambo ha introdotto le sessioni con un intervento su Istruzione e Innovazione in Africa e di come l’educazione digitale possa ampliare le possibilità dei più giovani. 

L’intervento di Eugenio Sidoli si è concentrato sul tema del Responsible Business, sottolineando due mega trends osservabili a livello globale: la maggiore attenzione dell’opinione pubblica ai temi della sostenibilità - ambientale e sociale - e la crescente attenzione verso i comportamenti etici. In questa direzione Philip Morris Italia sta modificando il paradigma del proprio business attraverso la promozione di Prodotti a Rischio Ridotto – gli HeatStick. Basandosi sull’innovazione scientifica e la tecnologia “heat-not-burn” è consentita, infatti, la riduzione delle sostanze dannose presenti nel tabacco.


Il tema della Digital Transformation è stato approfondito da Marco Alberti e Andrea Nativi, essendo questa una rivoluzione tecnologica estremamente veloce e impetuosa che sta radicalmente cambiando il nostro modello economico. La fusione dell’Internet delle comunicazioni, l’internet dell’energia e l’internet della logistica ha accelerato il passaggio ad una economia della conoscenza, della condivisione e dell’innovazione. 


Questa trasformazione digitale crea molte opportunità, ma anche numerose minacce alla cyber-security, argomento sottolineato da Raffaele Boccardo. I Cyber-attacchi hanno un potenziale di destabilizzazione a livello globale e la cyber-security, quindi, deve essere materia posta sotto l’attenzione dell’intera comunità internazionale. 


Alessandro Grandinetti, invece, ha concentrato il suo intervento sui megatrends che stanno avendo maggiore impatto nei vari settori a livello globale. Gli avanzamenti tecnologici saranno il megatrend che avrà l’impatto più dirompente nella società: la proliferazione dell’intelligenza artificiale o della realtà aumentata risulta essere di natura espansiva e complessa.


Uno dei settori che più di tutti gode delle potenzialità dell’innovazione è quello delle Telecomunicazioni, rappresentato da Gianluca Landolina, che ha parlato di sviluppo sociale delle innovazioni. Gli investimenti in programma in questo campo saranno necessari per permettere a un numero sempre crescente di individui di usufruire di servizi broadband e ultrabroadband a prezzi inferiori alla media di mercato.


Le conclusioni sono state affidate a Roberto Pasca di Magliano, Professore di Economic Growth, Sapienza Università di Roma, che ha evidenziato come la sharing economy favorirà la diffusione della società digitale attraverso nuovi modi di produzione e consumo di beni e servizi e ha suggerito una bottom-up self-regulation, piuttosto che rigidi controlli dall’alto. Sia le imprese - continua il Prof. Pasca -  ma specialmente i Governi, se vorranno cogliere le sfide poste dalla digital society, dovranno essere capaci di guidare le nuove tendenze per ridurre le diseguaglianze create dalla globalizzazione.





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LUMSA University - Rome - Borgo Sant'Angelo,13 - 10 a.m.


The Europe of Knowledge is a need for a “smart growth” and to improve the performances of the EU in the following fields: education, R&D and digital society and sharing economy. The EU’s goals for a sustainable growth shall include levels of public and private investments of around 3% of the EU GDP, as well as a better environment for R&D and innovation. Why does the EU need a smart and sustainable growth? The slowdown in the growth compared to its competitors is due to major differences in productivity, caused by lower investments in R&D in innovation, insufficient utilisation of information technology and by difficult access to innovation in some parts of the society.


A better developed Economy of Knowledge, together with more opportunities, will benefit the whole european population. 

The workshop is included in the wider context of the XIII International Symposium of the University Teachers organized by the Vicariate of Rome on the occasion of the Jubilee.


The Symposium will be launched on September 7th at 3:30 p.m. in the Lecture Hall of the Pontifical Lateran University, Piazza San Giovanni in Lateran, 4. There will be present, inter alia, Virginia Raggi, Mayor of Rome, Nicola Zingaretti, President of the Region of Lazio, Sen. Stefania Giannini, Minister for Education, Prof. Claude Coehn-Tannoudji, Nobel Prize in Physics and H.E. Card. Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council of Peace and Justice. 




Toward a Global Common Good improving Environmental Security and Responsible Business 


Valerio DE LUCA

AISES President
and Visiting Professor, Strathmore Business School, Nairobi, Kenya


President and CEO BV Tech s.p.a.


Head of Institutional Affairs, External Relations and Communication, Leonardo (Finmeccanica)

Pieremilio SAMMARCO

Associate Professor of Comparative Private Law, Università degli Studi di Bergamo

Eugenio SIDOLI

President and CEO, Philip Morris Italia


Dean School of Management and Commerce, Strathmore Business School, Nairobi, Kenya Moderator




Director Center for American Studies




Rector Università degli Studi “Niccolò Cusano” 




 Digital Transformation, Energy and Big Data for a Human Development

LUMSA University - Aula Traglia - Borgo Sant’Angelo, 13 Welcome h. 2:15 p.m.

Greetings h. 2:30 p.m. Nomatemba TAMBO

H.E. Ambassador of the South African Republic in Italy


Head of International Institutional Affairs, ENEL

Giovanna DE MINICO

Professor of Constitutional Law, Università Federico II di Napoli


Senior Partner di PWC


CEO Galata Spa – Cellnex Telecom Group


Professor of Macroeconomic Analysis and European Economic Integration University of Athens


Senior Lecturer in Marketing and Operations Management, Oxford Brookes University


Ignazio INGRAO

Giornalista RAI - TG1 Conclusion of the works




Professor of Economic Growth, Sapienza Università di Roma 








On May 11th, Global Sustainability Forum has been officially registered as a non-profit organization in Rome, with its headquarter in Piazza del Popolo, 3. 




GSF is chaired by Khalid Malik, former Director of the Human Development Report to the United Nations Development Programme , who appointed Valerio De Luca, President of AISES Academy, as Executive Director, Jean-Paul Fitoussi, OECD High Level Expert Group on the measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, and Pierpaolo Abet, CEO of Universal Trust, as members of the Executive Board. 




GSF is an high-level initiative that aims at stimulating debate on new ideas and pragmatic solutions in order to address shared global challenges and to develop responsible socio-economic engagements, through the building of an effective bridge among leaders, civil society and young people. The first meeting will be held in Rome at the beginning of 2017. It will bring the World into Rome and Rome into the World.




The GSF has been launched and presented by Khalid Malik on May 10th during the High Level Roundtable “The Challenges of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: from Agreement to Global Action” organized by AISES and the Center of American Studies in the presence of important participants and speakers such as P. Gallagher, Secretary for relations with States at Holy See, H. Abouyoub, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco, A. Husain Chief Economist World Food Programme - UN, S. Marguccio, Diplomatic Counselor of the Ministry of Italian Environment, A. Riccaboni, Rector of the University of Siena and Chair of the UN SDSN - MED and F. Confuorti, President and CEO of Advantage Financial. The Roundtable was preceded by a lunch with selected multi-national companies. 



IMG 6740

IMG 6741



The GSF was announced by Valerio De Luca to Pope Francis on April 27th during the Audience at St. Peter Square. 



(Roma) – 10 Maggio 2016


L’evento si è tenuto il 10 maggio 2016 nel palazzo del Centro Studi Americani, sul tema “Le sfide dell’Agenda 2030 per lo Sviluppo Sostenibile: dall’Accordo all’Azione Globale” alla presenza di illustri relatori, tra i quali Paul Gallagher, Segretario per le relazioni con gli Stati presso la Santa Sede, Hassan Abouyoub, Ambasciatore del Regno del Marocco, Arif Husain, Capo Economista e Deputy Director WFP e Paolo Messa, Direttore del Centro Studi Americani.


Ha introdotto l’incontro il Presidente di AISES, Prof. Valerio de Luca, sottolineando l’importanza di una governance globale per la sostenibilità. L’evento è stato occasione per il lancio del Global Sustainability Forum,  che terrà a Febbraio 2017, presentato da Khalid Malik, già Direttore UNDP Human Development Report Office e Presidente del GSF. Un’occasione per riunire leader mondiali ed esperti nel settore ed arrivare a dei risultati, con base a Roma, fornendo una grande opportunità a Italia ed Europa.


E’ stata inoltre presentata la candidatura per il Premio AISES Young “Sulle spalle dei giganti 2016 al Presidente degli Stati Uniti d’America, Barack Obama, per la sua lotta senza sosta per mettere in pratica delle misure efficaci per combattere il cambiamento climatico e per aver ricordato durante la COP21 che “siamo a un punto di svolta ed è il momento di essere congiuntamente determinati per salvare il nostro pianeta”.



are pleased to invite you at the Center for American Studies for the High-Level Roundtable, held on May 10th 3.30 pm,

The Challenges of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development:

from Agreement to Global Action”.


After the introduction of Valerio De Luca, Chairman of the International Academy AISES, and the presentation of Khalid Malik, former Director of UNDP Human Development Report Office and Chairman of Global Sustainability Forum, the following speakers will participate:


Jean-Paul Fitoussi, High Level Expert Group on the measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States at the Holy See, Gianluca Galletti, Minister of the Environment, Hassan Abouyoub, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco*, Francesco Confuorti, President and CEO of Advantage Financial, Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of UN World Food Program.


Paolo Messa, Director of Center for American Studies, will moderate.


Simultaneous translation in Italian and English will be provided.



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Pope Francis received the 2015 AISES Young Award “Standing on the shoulders of giants”.

The painting “Pope for Hope” was prepared by young African children.


April 27th, 2016 – At the Pope’s public audience in St. Peter’s Square, during which the parable of the Good Samaritan was read, Valerio De Luca, President of International Academy AISES, and Gregoire Piller, President of Diomira Foundation and AISES Director for African Affairs, delivered the 2015 AISES Young gift to His Holiness, in the presence of both AISES Young Delegation, guided by its President Erminio Sergio, and AISES Delegation.


The gift is an example of “poor art”, a painting prepared by the poor young inhabitants of the Mukuru Slums of Nairobi that the Diomira Foundation daily assists with regards to healthcare, education and sports. The title of the work is “Pope for Hope”, and it recalls the motivation chosen by AISES Young members for the 2015 Award:


To His Holiness for His attention towards the new generations and the problem of intergenerational equity; for His commitment to the topic of climate change and respect of the environment; for defining interreligious dialogue as “a necessary mean for peace on Earth”; for underlining the need for a “new universal spirit of solidarity and reciprocal help” in the Encyclical Laudato Sì; for His guidance towards a sustainable future in the same Encyclical.


During the delivery of the gift, President De Luca announced to the Pope the Global Sustainability Forum (GSF), which will be held in Rome in 2017, to move from the international agreements with regards to sustainability to global action taken by all stakeholders of our society. The GSF will be officially presented by Khalid Malik, Chairman of GSF and former Director of UNDP Human Development Report Office, at the High-Level Roundtable, organized by the International Academy AISES and held on May 10th at the Center for American Studies, in Rome.  


AISES delegation:  Valerio De Luca, Gregoire Piller, Angelo Anav, AISES Secretary General, Andreina Draghi, AISES Director Culture and Development, Imam Yahya Pallavicini, Co.Re.Is. Vice President, the AISES Young Delegation (Erminio Sergio, Flavia Mattioli, Filippo Santarelli, Ludovica Fucà).




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