Research and Development Performance

According to its 2014 report, the National Science Foundation ranks Utah 17th in the United States for total R&D performance, including all in-state R&D performance of the business sector, universities and colleges, federal agencies, federally funded research and development centers, and federally funded nonprofit R&D.[74] Importantly, R&D expenditures cluster and “sort” in ways that underscore Diamond’s research. “In 2010, the 10 states with the largest R&D expenditure levels—California, Massachusetts, Texas, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Washington, Illinois, Michigan, and Pennsylvania–accounted for about 62% of U.S. R&D expenditures that can be allocated to the states.. California alone accounted for 22% of the U.S. total, almost 4 times as much as Massachusetts, the next highest state. The top 20 states accounted for 84% of the R&D total; the 20 lowest states accounted for around 5%.”[75] THE IMPACT OF EDUCATION ON RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT PERFORMANCE

The effect of increasing the number of Utah residents with bachelor’s, professional, and doctoral degrees would have a substantial effect on the state’s ability to attract, and retain, both R&D dollars and the high-wage “knowledge industry” jobs that inevitably follow.

This happens in two ways. First, the cultivation of human capital that occurs as Utah colleges and universities produce more talented students with degrees will lead to a culture that not only values research and development, but that attracts interest and R&D money to the state: As Richard Florida of Carnegie Mellon University states: “The most critical contribution of the university to economic development is talent. Talent is the key resource of the knowledge economy. . . . Smart people do not necessarily respond to monetary incentives alone, they want to be around other smart people. . . . The fact is that good people attract other good people, and places with lots of good people attract firms that want access to talent, creating a self-reinforcing cycle of growth.”[76]

Second, increasing the pool of college alumni who want to stay in Utah will lead to more transfer of research from the universities to the private sector. Irwin Feller of Penn State notes: “Industrial representatives have repeatedly stated that universities’ primary contribution to technological innovation lies in the training of students. . . . Students are a means by which new scientific findings and technologically relevant knowledge are transferred from campus to firm.”[77]

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Boston metro area: “[M]ore important than the universities’ contributions to the venture industry’s financial capital, however, is their contribution to its human capital. Since its birth in the 1940’s, the region’s venture capital community has looked to the local universities as their primary source of talent. In 2001, for example, 68 out of 135 senior managers at the Boston area’s 25 largest venture capital funds were graduates of one or more of the [area’s] eight research universities. The presence of a large cadre of local graduates among the region’s venture capital firms facilitates the translation of university research into new businesses.”[78]


[74] National Science Board. (2014), Table 4-11.

[75] Ibid.

[76] Engines of economic growth. (2003), 27.

[77] Ibid., 28.

[78] Ibid., 63.