Bay Area Council Blog: Science and Innovation Archive



The Bay Area Council Economic Institute this week announced that effective February 1, 2015 Dr. Micah Weinberg will become President, succeeding long-time leader Dr. Sean Randolph as he assumes the new role of Senior Director. The transition comes as the Economic Institute is enjoying a period of robust growth, in both projects and visibility.

“The future of the Economic Institute couldn’t be brighter,” said Laura D’Andrea Tyson, Chair of the Economic Institute Board of Trustees. “We are extremely fortunate to have a leader of Dr. Weinberg’s caliber take the reins at the same time that Dr. Randolph continues to contribute his immense knowledge and talents to the organization. This change will bring new energy to the institute and deepen the expertise we already bring to exploring and understanding the Bay Area’s unique and unparalleled innovation and economic ecosystem.”

Dr. Weinberg is a nationally recognized economic development and public policy expert who has most recently served as Senior Fellow at the Economic Institute and spearheaded the Bay Area Council’s health care policy work. He has emerged as a leading national health policy analyst authoring several major reports through the Institute and appearing regularly as an expert voice in the state and national media.

Read the press release announcing the change>>


Drone Technologies Rapidly Advancing; Policies to Allow Them, Not So Much

With interest in the use of drones for commercial purposes taking flight, the Bay Area Council recently convened a policy roundtable with national policy expert Lisa Ellman, the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) practice leader at member firm McKenna Long and Aldridge. Ellman talked about the many exciting commercial applications for drones but said the U.S. is lagging the world in developing the policies necessary to allow industry to take full advantage of this exciting technology. “By 2025, it’s thought that UAS will have an economic impact of $82 billion and 100,000 new jobs created here in the U.S.,” Ellman said. “Drones are helpful for industrial uses like powerline inspection, pipeline inspection, flare stack inspection, and infrastructure inspection. Filmmaking, as well.” Commercial use of drones is technically illegal in the U.S., with companies only able to operate them after receiving special exemptions from the Federal Aviation Administration. “It is not too late to fix,” Ellman concludes. “It’s important that innovators come to the table and educate policymakers about the technology that is out there. There is crash avoidance technology that can prevent the drone from running into us, for example.”

Read a more detailed article on drones by Bay Area Council Economic Institute Senior Fellow Matt Gardner>>

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The Bay Area Council this week (Dec. 10) doubled down on its efforts to tackle the region’s most pressing challenges, unveiling a bold policy agenda for 2015 that prioritizes building workforce housing, creating the workforce of the future, securing water supply reliability, battling traffic and modernizing vital communications and energy infrastructure. The Council’s Executive Committee, under the leadership of Chair David Cush, President and CEO of Virgin America, approved a set of policy priorities that include:

Workforce Housing: The Bay Area’s inability to meet housing demand is creating a massive affordability crisis and threatening to hamper the region’s economic growth. The Housing Committee, Co-Chaired by TMG Partners Chairman & CEO Michael Covarrubias and Signature Development Group President Michael Ghielmetti, will focus on ways to ease regulatory barriers and speed new housing in so-called regional “priority development areas.” To engage in our housing work, contact policy Vice President Matt Regan.

21st Century Infrastructure: New energy and communications technologies are essential to building the “smart cities” of the future and driving economic growth. However, the regulatory powers are not keeping pace. Under the leadership of Co-Chairs PG&E Chairman, CEO & President Anthony F. Earley and AT&T California President Kenneth McNeely, the 21st Century Task Force is driving legislative and regulatory change that will enable the development and utilization of advanced energy and communications networks. To engage in the Council’s 21st Century Infrastructure work, contact policy Vice President Michael Cunningham.

Commute Improvement: Growing traffic indicates an expanding economy, but also reflects insufficient transportation capacity and outdated operations. Under the leadership of Arup Principal John Eddy, the Council’s Transportation Committee is focused on leveraging new technologies to boost highway capacity and efficiency, increasing investment in mass transit and identifying new reliable transportation funding sources. To engage in our commute improvement work, contact policy Vice President Michael Cunningham.

Water Supply and Security: With growing and often-conflicting demand and limited supply, ensuring that the Bay Area has sufficient water is vital to the region’s economic health. The Water Committee, Co-Chaired by Montezuma Wetlands Managing Partner Jim Levine and Suffolk Construction Company West Coast President Andrew Ball, will work to ensure Proposition 1 funds support best regional projects and continue to advance coequal goals of supply reliability and environmental preservation in the Bay Delta. To engage in the Council’s water policy work, contact Policy Manager Adrian Covert.

Workforce of the Future: The world of work is changing much faster than the education and training world. This mismatch creates “skills gaps” between what employers want and the skills job applicants possess. Students and educators need better information about the world of work and the skills that are needed for high demand jobs. Employers need strategies for engaging with and influencing the public sector talent/workforce supply chain. The Council will work to establish a regional model of public-private cooperation for the future workforce. To engage in our Workforce of the Future work, contact policy Vice President Linda Galliher.

The Bay Area Council extends its hearty thanks to Board member and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland President and CEO Bert Lubin and Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute Executive Director Janet King for generously hosting our Executive Committee and Board of Directors meeting. The Council has been honored to work with Dr. Lubin in our early childhood education work, including the launch earlier this year of our Talk Read Sing campaign in Oakland.



Oakland Mayor-Elect Libby Schaff received warm applause from the Council’s Board of Directors on Wednesday (Dec. 10) when she said she is committed to making Oakland “the least irritating government in America.” In an easy-flowing conversation with Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman in front of 75 top business executives, Schaff quipped that it was a relief to address an audience without having to compete for attention with the crowded field she bested on Nov. 4 to win Oakland’s top job. The Oakland native said she will be focused on making the city safe through better policing and more robust education and job-training services.

A number of the issues she highlighted as key to Oakland’s future are among those the Council will be most focused in 2015, including housing, workforce and infrastructure. Schaff talked about Oakland’s approach to pre-approving large housing plans that the Bay Area Council is looking to replicate elsewhere because it helps shield developers from costly and time-consuming environmental challenges. To the delight of fans of the Oakland A’s and Raiders, Schaff said she is determined to keep both teams in town. Among the first four phone calls Schaff said she made immediately after winning election were to her mother and the owners of the two teams.

The rapid convergence of technology and biosciences is creating what University of California San Francisco Chancellor Dr. Sam Hawgood called an “inflection point” in the world of medical research that will lead to dramatic and exciting breakthroughs in curing our most deadly, costly and intractable diseases. Hawgood, a featured speaker at the Board of Directors meeting, offered a glimpse of the trends and innovations driving change in the biomedical sciences. He described how UCSF and the Bay Area are perfectly positioned to lead the world in this field, and convert research into revenue-generating patents and start-up companies. He discussed the explosive growth occurring in San Francisco’s Mission Bay where UCSF is a leading presence and he highlighted the major economic contributions the university makes to the city as its second-largest employer.



Extreme weather could not hold back Oakland Mayor-Elect Libby Schaaf, Chinese Consulate Economic Counselor Xia Xiang, Bay Area Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman and other regional leaders from welcoming Tsinghua University President Chen Jining to the Bay Area on Wednesday (Dec. 10). President Chen’s arrival was much anticipated: Tsinghua University is considered one of the world’s most prestigious universities, graduating many of China’s most powerful and influential leaders, including current Chinese President Xi Jinping.  The Bay Area is home to one of Tsinghua’s largest alumni bases in the world. In meetings the Bay Area Council arranged, President Chen spoke separately with Governor Jerry Brown and California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols about California’s efforts to address climate change.

President Chen and his delegates were received with fanfare at a warm and cheerful reception hosted by new Bay Area Council member Prologis, the leading owner, operator and developer of industrial real estate across Asia, Europe, and the Americas.  Prologis is one of Fortune Magazine’s most admired companies of 2014 and has been named one of the top 100 most sustainable companies in the world.  For more information about the Bay Area Council’s work in China, please contact Chief of Global Initiatives Del Christensen.



California’s once-visionary Master Plan for Higher Education has not kept pace with tectonic changes rumbling across the Golden State, according to a report the Bay Area Council Economic Institute released this week (Dec. 2) that calls for overhauling the blueprint to position the state’s three public university systems to better serve and respond to the demographic, economic and technological realities of the 21st Century. The report and recommendations come as the debate over state funding for the University of California and the California State University systems reaches a fever pitch. Among the report’s findings:

  • When the Master Plan was written, 11 percent of jobs were filled by workers with at least a bachelor’s degree – today it is over one-third and growing.
  • In 1960, 82 percent of high school graduates were non-Hispanic whites; today it is 28 percent.
  • In 1977, 18 percent of the state’s budget went to higher education; today, it is 11.6 percent.

Read the full report>>

See reaction from academic and business leaders>>

Read the press release>>

In addition to well-documented and dramatic declines in state funding for higher education, the report cites legislative and administrative mandates will allow them to experiment with new funding and academic approaches to meet the needs of individual institutions. As the 2015 legislative session moves forward and Gov. Jerry Brown unveils his proposed budget in January, the Bay Area Council will be actively engaged in seeking higher education reforms necessary to help meet California’s future workforce needs, grow middle-class jobs and compete globally. To engage in our workforce and higher education policy work, contact policy Vice President Linda Galliher.

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Plans taking shape for UC Berkeley’s new Global Campus in Richmond

The Bay Area Council Economic Institute this week (Nov. 19) hosted a presentation on UC Berkeley’s plans for the Berkeley Global Campus, a new international educational and research complex that will be developed on the site of the university’s Richmond Field Station. Robert Lalanne, Vice Chancellor for Real Estate at Berkeley, and Terezia Nemeth, the Berkeley Global Campus Development Manager, briefed 75 participants drawn from development, construction, architecture, investment banking, technology, biotechnology, law, higher education, local government and consulates on the project.

The approved Long Range Development Plan for the site allows for up to 5.4 million square feet of commercial, educational, R&D and supporting uses. The new campus will host universities and private companies from around the world that will co-locate to conduct joint research with UC Berkeley. Key areas of focus will include energy, sustainability, big data and life science. The facilities will be developed through public-private partnerships, creating major opportunities for development both on campus and in the adjacent Richmond community. The build-out of the campus will add an important new piece to the Bay Area’s rich research and innovation network, and further strengthen its position as a global technology leader. The Economic Institute has supported the university in developing its financial strategy for the project.


Growing Concern about Data Breaches

U.S. Postal Service, Department of State! Who’s next? The recent string of hacks into U.S. federal agencies laid bare the clear and present danger that cyber threats pose not just to consumer and business data, but also especially to federal agencies and critical infrastructure.

The Bay Area Council’s Cybersecurity Committee met this week (Nov. 20) to discuss awareness strategies for policy makers and the need for California’s critical infrastructure systems—water, transportation and energy—to be part of the cybersecurity discussion. These interdependent systems rely heavily on advanced communications systems making them vulnerable to cyber breaches. Committee members discussed the need for R&D to protect those systems, preventing cascading disasters from one mode to the next, and developing new approaches that are less inherently vulnerable as possible strategies to minimize the risk.

The Committee continues development of its 2015 program, which includes creating a focused regional dialogue on building cyber resiliency and raising awareness in incumbent legislators and staff members on cybersecurity issues. Special thanks to DLA Piper for hosting the meeting. To get involved in the Council’s cybersecurity policy work please contact Senior Advisor Matt Gardner.


800 Celebrate Giants Win, Business Leadership at 2014 Annual Dinner

About 800 of our closest friends gathered Wednesday (Oct. 29) for the Bay Area Council’s 69th Annual Dinner and Business Hall of Fame at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, where we honored Intuit Founder Scott Cook and former Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO George Halvorson.

Oh yeah, and we turned the whole event into a big viewing party to watch the San Francisco Giants defeat the Kansas City Royals in a rollicking Game 7 that featured a sublime and historic performance by pitcher and World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner.

Thank you to Presenting Sponsor Kaiser Permanente and CEO Bernard J. Tyson for their continuing support of the Bay Area Council. Thank you also to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and former Mayor Willie Brown for dropping by to add their congratulations to our two honorees.

See a photo gallery of the festivities.



Speaking passionately about the importance of business-education partnerships, Bay Area Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman addressed a capacity crowd at the STEM Summit in Oakland on Thursday (Oct. 23). The summit opened the 4th Annual Bay Area Science Festival, one of the largest STEM events in the nation. Organized by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, the STEM Summit covered business partnerships, the need for broadband infrastructure improvements, career pathways, and STEM educator perspectives.

Wunderman joined other top business leaders, including Terry Hermiston, Vice President of Biologics Research for Council member Bayer, Sunne Wright McPeak, President and CEO of California Emerging Technology Fund, Rich Robbins, CEO of Wareham Development, and Jim Vanides, Global Education Program Manager for Hewlett-Packard. The group emphasized the importance of inspiring and educating Bay Area students, especially girls and minorities, for the STEM jobs that are located right in this region. There was much agreement on the importance of teacher professional development in STEM subjects and the need for technology integration into all subjects and all grade levels. To engage in the Council’s STEM policy work, contact Vice President Linda Galliher.