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Why do we need a knowledge-based economy?

The heart of the knowledge and innovation economy is built on the high-technology, high-wage jobs needed in the fields of services, health care and education are also vital to this new economy.

The global driver of economic prosperity centers around the knowledge, innovation, and talent that is produced by strong public universities from this point forward. Even in a knowledge and innovation economy we cannot rely on random acts of greatness if Florida is to build an economy that provides the kind of jobs that lead to a robust quality of life. We must ensure that the entire system of public universities is strong and vibrant. There is global competition in this era of knowledge and innovation, competition that has created urgency to establishing our state as a major player on the world stage.

Building this new economy requires new talent, so we must increase the percentage of Floridians who have baccalaureate and advanced degrees in these areas. The average income is $46,277 for people with a bachelor’s degree and $61,014 for those with an advanced degree.

So, what are the benefits of a knowledge-based economy?

In addition to better jobs with higher average annual salaries, economies built on knowledge and innovation are more stable. Following are a few examples.

Fifty years ago, North Carolina was facing an economic crisis because the agricultural base of their economy was diminishing sharply. Instead of hoping and waiting for an economic turnaround, the state’s leaders decided that they should remake their economy. They decided to build their economic future on their universities through intentional investments and strategic alignments that placed North Carolina at the forefront of the knowledge economy.

The May 26, 2009, edition of the Wall Street Journal contains an example of this sector’s stability. The paper compares the fate of two Michigan cities, Ann Arbor and Warren. In Warren, factory buildings and warehouses built on the riches of the Big Three automakers bear signs saying they are "priced to sell." Meanwhile just 50 miles away in Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan, a highly educated population has created a burgeoning economy, and a street-corner conversation can develop into a company and create jobs.

The University of Washington is largely the reason why “Seattle has become the home of world-dominating technology companies and leading biomedical firms…” as quoted in the August 3, 2009, edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

And here in Florida, there are many examples demonstrating how investment in the state’s public universities yields economic benefits. Silicon Valley-based SRI International is one of the world's leading independent research and technology development organizations. SRI International dedicated a new building in St. Petersburg on December 18, 2009. The University of South Florida is a major part of the foundation that attracted SRI to the St. Petersburg area. Additionally, Draper Laboratory has established the Draper Bioengineering Center at USF directly resulting from the research conducted at the institution.

Companies that have licensed University of Florida technologies contribute a half-billion dollars a year and 2,000 jobs to the state’s economy (reported to Board of Governors in 2006). The University of Florida College of Medicine and Shands HealthCare together have been estimated to have a $2.5 billion impact on the economy of the state.

In 2003, the University of Central Florida received $10 million to establish a Center of Excellence in Photonics. As a result of that investment, UCF has attracted another $42.9 million in research awards and private capital to the state of Florida. The Center of Excellence in Photonics has also created six new companies and more than 60 high paying jobs as of the 2008 reporting period.

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