Dr. Joseph Bordogna
Chief Operating Officer
National Science Foundation
30th Anniversary of the I/UCRC Program
January 8, 2004
Good morning. And congratulations to each and every one of you involved
in the I/UCRC Program. Some successes never wane and all of you have been
responsible for the continuing stellar performance of this program.
I think we can all agree that we owe a special debt of gratitude
to Alex Schwarskopf for his thirty years of commitment to, and
leadership of, the I/UCRC program. He has been the super-mentor,
nurturing, directing, and guiding. There is no question that, without
Alex, none of this would have happened. He is the consummate enabler.
Today, since we have so many people on the agenda to speak for,
and about, the program's specific milestones and successes, I thought
I would draw a somewhat larger arc in my remarks.
I want to talk about NSF -- touching on its history, mission,
and vision for the future, and how the I/UCRC program is an important
part of all three.
The philosopher George Santayana said, "Those who cannot
remember the past are doomed to repeat it." In NSF's more
than 50-year history, we have been astute readers of the past in
order to carve more productive paths to the future.
In 1974 when NSF started the I/UCUC program, the relationship
between industry and government in America could be characterized
as one of mutual reticence. Other than in times of war and national
crisis, these two societal sectors operated with purposeful independence
of each other.
The 1970's also saw the rise of Japan as a first example determined
economic competitor in our domestic market, as well as in the global
marketplace. Competitiveness became the by-word.
In those worrisome times, NSF harkened back to the wisdom of Vannevar
Bush in his seminal piece, Science: The Endless Frontier. It had
been roughly thirty years since Bush had written that treatise
for then-President F.D.R. Many remembered the work as insightful
and important, but few remembered why.
To paraphrase Vannevar Bush on science -- he directed us to see
science effective in the national welfare only as a member of a
team. With recognition of that wisdom, NSF set out to develop a
program that would build a team model. This model would be a place
where university science and engineering and industry could be
long-term and powerful partners to achieve innovation and marketplace
By its very design, the I/UCRC model would begin to diffuse the
historic reticence between government and industry. This would
take place by seeding effective teams where government would facilitate
a vibrant relationship between university researchers and industry.
The mandate of this partnership was to address the need of industry
to confront growing international economic competition.
Among the fundamental values that NSF brought to the I/UCRC structure
was the responsibility for each party to participate as both a
teacher and a learner. This was not to be a one-way street where
one party gave and the other received. There would be both opportunity
and responsibility to teach as well as learn.
In addition, NSF, especially Alex, understood the value of having
all team members participate from the onset of a project when each
could have a voice at the front end in deciding the parameters
and responsibilities of the work to be done.
Another important value instilled in the process was the understanding
that teams and centers should eventually be able to stand on their
own, independent of NSF support. This, as you all know, has happened
in most cases.
In the big picture, the framers of the program understood the
long-term value of centers serving as a training-ground for graduate
and undergraduate students. And as university researchers and industry
personnel worked side-by-side, industry began to see these arrangements
as fertile territory for recruiting fresh, well-trained talent
for their own ranks.
The framework for the I/UCRC program was a frontier-approach to
NSF's mission of advancing science and engineering for the public
good while continuing to train the next generation of scientists
Hindsight allows us to better see the larger vision that this
program introduced -- the template of integration and collaboration
for future NSF program-design. This would henceforth influence
the Foundation's perspective, approach and planning in new and
more productive ways.
NSF successfully replicated integration and collaboration in its
many forms into the diverse centers that followed. Those centers
have helped the nation move into competitively into today's fast-paced
Knowledge Economy. Consider for a moment the partial list of categories
for major NSF centers --science and technology centers, engineering
research centers, supercomputing centers, partnerships for innovation
and now the science of learning centers.
The components of the formula are simple and allow for maximum
flexibility. You know the ingredients and outcomes better than
any. NSF provides seed money which is leveraged more than 10 times
through industry and other sources of center support. When NSF
support is used in this way it automatically brings in new ideas
and expertise. Thus the seed money provides a meeting ground where
many interested parties can gather.
There was a time, in the 60s and early 70s, when the norm was
20 years for the results of fundamental research to find their
way to the marketplace. Today, in many instances, that timeframe
has collapsed, often to 20 months. The pace of technological change
has accelerated dramatically with the advent of more powerful and
sophisticated tools both enabling more creative disruption at the
frontier at the frontier of knowledge and reducing time lag between
discovery and application.
However, another major underlying cause for this change has been
the links made between and among the principal players. The barriers
between sectors have diminished, due in large part to changes in
the sociology of science and engineering brought about by integration
and collaboration. With university researchers working with those
in industry on a common problem, the time from lab to marketplace
In addition, a new collegiality grows and two very different sectors
grow to appreciate each other's culture and find a way to braid
them into a pattern of success. Thus trust emerges as the ultimate
enabler of the partnership.
NSF's history of success attests to an understanding of the larger
context in the nation and abroad to define goals and strategies
for the future. Our current strategic plan is rooted in four primary
categories, people, tools, ideas, and organizational excellence.
These broad categories are brought to fruition by the continuing
development of intellectual capital, the integration of research
and education, and the continuing search to form partnerships to
make optimum use of the nation's resources.
I am sure that you recognize how your evolving work with the I/UCRC
program has helped shape and enhance these territories, and how
they have, in turn, honed and advanced you own work.
Our vision for the future of NSF is to remain steadfast about
a focus at the frontier. We are a reconnaissance institution, checking
out the future. With the cognizance of accelerating change, we
are committed to preparing a science and engineering workforce
that will reflect our changing demographics, and adapt to a future
that may well be distinctly different in ways we cannot even imagine.
In closing, I want you to pay tribute to all of you. An institution
is only as good as its people. You and others like you continue
to make NSF a premier institution - respected around the world,
and held in high esteem by those whose task it is to judge us.
Thank you for the important contributions you have made to that
Happy Anniversary I/UCRC! Thank you, Alex.
Return to a list of Dr. Bordogna's speeches.