26 Oct Create a Governor’s Technology Summit
The 2003 Wisconsin Economic Summit started today. It will be interesting to see if this year’s conference attracts any more technologists than the previous three Summits. My hunch is that it will not and we will see the usual list of suspects who frankly know almost nothing about high technology. As in the past, the hall will be filled with those who sincerely want to help but who are clueless about what to do.
If Governor Doyle is serious about his program to “Grow Wisconsin,” he should redesign the Governor’s Economic Summit he is planning for early next year to make it the 2004 Governor’s Technology Summit. The featured speakers and attendees should be scientists and technologists from around the state. I am sure Dr. Paul Peercy, Dean of the College of Engineering at UW-Madison (and others like him) would be pleased to help the Governor put together the invitation list of individuals with appropriate credentials from industry, government and academia. Attendance by non-technical people—accountants, lawyers, bankers, financial consultants and investors (like me)—should be limited, and we should be relegated to the cheap seats in the back of the hall were we can listen and be seen, but not heard.
Can You Imagine?
The goals of the Governor’s Technology Summit should be to solicit ideas from the technology experts about how to maximize our technology assets and how to increase the rate of technology transfer between the state’s research community and local businesses. Can you imagine it? Can you think of the possibilities of 500 to 1,000 of our best scientific and technical people together in one place for a few days discussing their ideas for new technology, comparing notes on presentations and making connections that might lead to an important interdisciplinary business project? “Just Dream” for a moment what the possibilities could be.
These talented men and women from our scientific and technical community who have come here from all over the world should be the heroes of our society. Instead of building more and bigger athletic facilities we should be investing heavily in research and technology centers that nurture such people. Instead of being sequestered in isolated laboratories and classrooms, our technologically elite should be working closely with local businesses. They should be paid fat fees for sitting on corporate boards and for dishing our advice and ideas on every conceivable problem we now face in business and government. The truth is these people are smarter than the rest of us.
We need techno-savy leaders.
What we need in Wisconsin are more techno-savvy business leaders and the best place to find them is in our scientific and technical community. It is our only hope. If we want to increase the high-tech component of the Wisconsin economy, we must somehow convince more scientists and engineers to step forward and become entrepreneurs. With such visionary business leaders, we can transform the lagging Wisconsin economy. Without them we will continue to slide further behind.
John Byrnes is Executive Managing Director of Mason Wells, a leading Midwest private equity and venture capital firm headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. John is a regular columnist for the Wisconsin Technology Network and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of the The Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.