Bay Area Council Blog: Science and Innovation Archive



Sustaining the Bay Area’s economic growth, broadening it and positioning the region and the state for future prosperity were central to the policy agenda the Bay Area Council Executive Committee adopted this week under the leadership of new Chair David Cush, CEO of Virgin America. The agenda reflects several issues on which the Council has long provided leadership, but whose urgency has intensified as the regional economy continues on a fast upward trajectory. The Council’s policy priorities include:

Build more housing. The Bay Area has come up short over the past several decades in creating sufficient housing across a range of incomes to keep pace with demand. The shortage has become painfully apparent over the past 24 months with surging economic and job growth and spiking demand. Attracting the best talent to our region requires having sufficient housing. Under the leadership of Mike Ghielmetti, CEO of Signature Development Group, and Mike Covarrubias, CEO of TMG Partners, the Council’s Housing and Sustainable Development committee will focus on how we can create more housing and address some of the immediate issues related to the current shortage. To engage in our housing policy work, contact Policy Manager Catherine Lyons.

Improve transportation system. With economic growth has come increased demand on the region’s transportation system, including growing traffic congestion. From our bridges, roads and highways, to BART and other mass transit systems, we must find creative and actionable ways to increase the capacity of our transportation network to allow our economy to grow. John Eddy of Arup and Caroline Rodman of T.Y. Lin will lead this important effort. To engage in our transportation policy work, contact Vice President Michael Cunningham.

21st Century Infrastructure. California’s stature and prosperity are founded on decades of visionary investments in the state’s infrastructure—highways, college and university campuses, aqueducts and reservoirs—without which, California as we know it would not exist. But the new economic, environmental and technological realities of this century require a new understanding of essential infrastructure, one that includes and prioritizes the 21st Century Infrastructure of energy and communications networks. To engage in our 21st Century Infrastructure work, which is being led by PG&E CEO Anthony Earley and AT&T California President Ken McNeely, contact Policy Manager Adrian Covert.

Early childhood education. The Bay Area Council is a statewide leader in advocating for investment in early childhood education. Research is absolutely clear that there is no better investment for preparing our future workforce than investing in preparing children to enter kindergarten. Under the leadership of George Halvorson, former Chairman of Kaiser Permanente and Chair of the California First 5 Commission, the Council is readying a major statewide initiative aimed at raising awareness about the importance of early childhood education and increasing access in under-served communities. To engage in our early childhood education work, contact Policy Vice President Matt Regan.

China trade and investment. China is expected soon to move from third to second as California’s largest trading partner. The Bay Area Council is partnering with Governor Jerry Brown and the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development to operate the California-China Office of Trade and Investment, and we are looking forward to dramatically expanding that work in 2014. To engage with the CA-China Trade Office, contact state Director Genevieve Herreria. To engage in the Council’s global initiatives, contact Vice President Bing Wei.

Healthcare. The Bay Area Council has led the business community in preparing for the rollout of healthcare reform and ensuring that the new system prioritizes controlling costs and improving care. The Council will step up its work in this critical area of our economy in 2014 as many of these changes go into effect. To engage in our healthcare policy work, contact Senior Policy Advisor Micah Weinberg.



Clearly energized from his Proposition 30 victory, and preparing next year’s budget and his State of the State speech, Governor Jerry Brown sat down with the Bay Area Council Board of Directors Thursday for an informal, candid and productive discussion on a wide range of issues that was scheduled to last an hour but stretched for more than 90 minutes before he joked he better let his CEO audience return to work. In his inimitable style, the Governor humorously reflected on the “temptations” that the Legislature may now feel with its supermajority, shared some of the interesting political jockeying that produced Proposition 30 (giving partial credit to some unlikely and perhaps unwitting sources), and expressed views on both Democrats and Republicans in Sacramento that reinforced his well-known independent streak.  He went through much of what appeared to be his 2013 agenda.  He was very interested in the Bay Area Council’s approach to reforming CEQA.

The Governor engaged with the Board in a frank discussion about the state’s massive infrastructure needs, including water, telecommunications, energy and transportation and he noted the challenges of balancing new spending against the state’s considerable debt burden.  We discussed his thoughts about taxation and Prop 13.  He expressed concern about climate change and California’s readiness to address the massive economic and human impacts of both severe weather (a la superstorm Sandy) and sea-level rise on low-lying regions like the Bay Area.  And he discussed his strong interest in improving California’s  educational performance through such vehicles as student funding formulas, new common core standards and online technologies.

Thank you to Governor Brown for his time, Kaiser Permanente and CEO George Halvorson for generously hosting the meeting.



With victories and major progress in 2012 on all of the Bay Area Council’s top policy priorities, the Executive Committee this week adopted its 2013 agenda. Thank you to all our members for their valuable and thoughtful input over the past two months in identifying our policy priorities, including:

21st Century Infrastructure. Economic growth and prosperity can’t be sustained without a modern infrastructure, not something California would immediately be accused of having. We will work to identify investment in transportation, energy, water, broadband, airports and other parts California’s vital infrastructure. We’ll also continue our important work on CEQA, which affects all infrastructure.

Public Pensions. We got the ball rolling this year with reform legislation that will end some abuses and lower costs for new public employees, while requiring that all employees contribute toward their retirement benefits in the future.  But there remains massive unfunded liability across many parts of the system, and the work continues, which if unchecked will threaten to continue bankrupting cities and consume ever-growing share of taxpayer dollars.  The work continues.

Healthcare. The state is less than one year away from launching its health benefit exchange. The Bay Area Council will be on the front lines of this process, leading the business community and giving our members a strong voice in how reform rolls out.

China/Trade. We’re focused on opening California’s trade office in China in the coming months and building on our own successes in forging direct economic partnerships with some of China’s leading tech districts.

Higher education. With massive cuts to all levels of higher education over the past decade, California is at serious risk of diminishing one of our greatest competitive advantages and a major source of our high-skilled workers.  We’ll begin with a Bay Area Council Economic Institute white paper examining the state’s higher education Master Plan.

President and CEO Jim Wunderman praised Chair Janet Lamkin’s leadership in bringing sharp focus to the Bay Area Council’s 2012 policy priorities that he credited for our success in:

–Securing early investment to modernize and electrify the Caltrain corridor;
–Winning reforms to the public pension system that will make them more sustainable going forward;
–Helping shape the framework for healthcare reform that keeps the focus controlling costs and improving quality;
–Passing legislation to reopen California’s trade offices and being named to open the first office in China; and,
–Keeping pressure on the Legislature to reform CEQA.

Michael Covarrubias beseeched members to become engaged with Bay Area Council policy staff and committees, observing that it is only through the collective leadership and involvement of our members that we are able to produce the kinds of results we did in 2012.


New Study: For Every New High-Tech Job, Four More Created

When it comes to creating jobs in California across a wide range of income levels and employment sectors, a new report by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute and commissioned by Engine Advocacy concludes it pays to play to your strengths. For much of the Bay Area and other regions in the state, high-tech jobs are where the action is. The report – Technology Works: High-Tech Employment and Wages in the United States – shows that high-tech jobs have been more resilient over the past 10 years to economic downturns than other private sector industries, pay more, create more indirect jobs by far than any other industry and hold the most promise for continued growth. We were pleased to hand Governor Brown a copy of the report yesterday fresh off the presses.

Among the key findings:
– Employment growth in tech jobs — defined as those most closely related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) — outpaced gains in all other occupations by a ratio of 27 to 1 from 2001 to 2011.
– For each job created in the high-tech sector, approximately 4.3 jobs are created (multiplier effect) in other local goods and services sectors across all income groups, including lawyers, dentists, schoolteachers, cooks and retail clerks, among many others.
– The jobs multiplier effect in the high-tech sector is significantly higher than for almost any other sector. By comparison, traditional manufacturing has a multiplier effect of 1.4 jobs.
Demand for high tech occupations will be considerably stronger than demand for other workers at least through 2020.

Using federal labor statistics, the report also shows that while California continues to dominate in high-tech jobs the Golden State is not the only game in town. There was sobering news for Silicon Valley, which didn’t crack the top 25 among high-tech regions with the biggest percentage job gains. High-tech jobs are increasingly popping up in states and regions that historically have not been associated with high tech, including in the Rust Belt and South. This has important implications at a federal level for how jobs and economic policy is shaped. But the study’s findings don’t suggest that California should necessarily engage in hand-to-hand combat with other states for these jobs. According to another recent study by the Economic Institute, how the vast majority of jobs get created or destroyed in the Bay Area has little to do with companies moving in or out of the region and more to with the survival rate of start-ups across all sectors. The availability of high-skilled workers, inadequate housing supply that drives up costs and burdensome regulation have a bigger role in deciding the survival of new firms and job growth than what other states might be doing to lure away companies.



The Bay Area Council’s advocacy of legislation to improve the college readiness of California high school students got results this week when Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1458 into law. The law, drafted by Senate President Darrell Steinberg, strengthens the measures used in the Academic Performance Index — California’s primary public school accountability tool. The new measures will include graduation rates and student readiness for college and career, among other things. In our letter to the Governor asking for his signature, the Bay Area Council wrote: “The eventual broader measures in pursuit of college and career readiness will better incentivize educators toward identified impactful behaviors.  Researchers project that by 2025, 40% of jobs will require a college degree. Without an increased commitment to college readiness and access, Californians with college degrees will amount to just 35% of the 2025 workforce, well short of what is needed.  Without these improvements to college and career pathways for students, the recovery and growth of the California economy will be hindered by a lack of highly educated workers.” To participate in the Bay Area Council’s education policy work, contact Linda Galliher.


Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. Headlines Bay Area Council U.S.-China Collaboration Symposium on Smart Cities

Some of the world’s leading companies and foremost experts in designing and building the “smart cities’ of the future will be gathering for the Bay Area Council’s inaugural U.S.-China Collaboration Symposium on September 28 hosted by Marvell Technology in Santa Clara and featuring Governor and former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman Jr. The all-day symposium will bring together industry leaders in infrastructure, technology, energy, healthcare, urban planning, and sustainable development along with top government officials from the U.S. and China to discuss the need and tremendous opportunities for building smart cities. Among the companies participating in panel discussions throughout the day are the Energy Foundation, GE, Seimens One, Chevron Energy Solutions, VMware, HP, Cisco, HSBC and AECOM. Joining them are government leaders from the Bay Area, including Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, Palo Alto Mayor Yiaway Yeh and Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews, along with top officials from some of China’s premier high-tech regions. Tickets and sponsorship opportunities are still available.

See the full program of speakers.

See sponsorship and ticket opportunities.



Stagnating federal investment in basic research, declining state funding for higher education and immigration policies that limit access to global talent are threatening to erode the Bay Area’s position as the world’s premier center for technology and innovation, according to an in-depth report released by the Bay Area Science and Innovation Consortium (BASIC).

The report examines the unique mix of ingredients that make up the region’s dynamic technology and innovation eco-system, and how they work together to foster cutting-edge research, birth new industries and launch new companies and products. The report finds that compromising any of these ingredients can have a damaging ripple effect on the overall system and its ability to generate future jobs and growth.

“We have a powerful system of world-leading research institutions, companies, investors, entrepreneurs and networks that make this region a global super-hub for innovation. We can’t assume, however, that the region will keep its leading role if it fails to address its challenges or invest in its core assets, ” said Sean Randolph, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, which authored the report based on interviews with BASIC institutions and other leaders in the region’s business, scientific and educational communities. “Solving the serious challenges outlined in the report will take a concerted effort by leaders at all levels of business, government and academia.”

Download the full report: The Bay Area Innovation System

Among the most serious threats that the study identifies are:

  • Federal funding for basic research that leads to fundamental technological advances is stagnant, even as foreign governments are investing heavily in research and education.
  • Federal limits on visas and green cards discourage many of the world’s best and brightest students, scientists and entrepreneurs from coming to the U.S., or staying after earning their advanced degrees.
  • Dramatic declines in state and local funding for California public higher education, which supplies much of the region’s highly educated and well-trained workforce.

To address these issues, the report offers a series of specific recommendations for deepening collaboration between the public and private sectors, increasing funding for research and public higher education, and reforming immigration policy to allow better access to visas and green cards for highly educated immigrants.

While the study offers a compelling look at the challenges facing the region’s innovation and technology sector, it also highlights the region’s many strengths and advantages. The study details the Bay Area’s extraordinary strength in scientific research – with five world-leading research universities, five national laboratories, and a host of corporate and independent research laboratories. The economic impact of the scientific research generated by these facilities is amplified not just by their discoveries, but by the ecosystem of venture capital firms, angel investors, incubators, accelerators and formal and informal networks that surround them. The key to how this ecosystem works, and to its extraordinary technological and economic productivity, is the fluid way people and ideas circulate and interact, with few barriers to the creation of new ideas and value.

The ecosystem’s success is reflected in several metrics: the Bay Area generates more patents than anywhere in the country; it is home to more of the world’s top technology companies and to more young, fast-growing companies than anywhere in the country; and hosts more than half of the top clean-tech companies in the country, including seven out of 10 of the top social media companies in the world.

“In the Bay Area the whole is equal to more than the sum of its parts,” Randolph said. “The secret sauce is in how they interact. The result is a dynamic ecosystem where people, technologies and ideas are continuously combined to create new value. That’s hard to replicate anywhere else.”

At the same time, the region’s visible success masks troubling trends that impact the rich base of human capital and talent on which California’s innovation prowess is based.

“The Bay Area has a marvelous innovation machine where all the parts – universities, federal laboratories, technology and bio-medical companies, the investment community, are integrated and work together,” said Mark Bregman, Chair of BASIC. “The problem comes when you erode or damage one part of that system – like higher education, which can affect all the other parts. For the Bay Area to remain an innovation super-hub and the world’s leading marketplace for ideas, we need to understand the global innovation environment and how it’s changing, keep the doors open to the rest of the world, and continually reinvest in our assets.”


Improving Business Climate Tops Council’s 2012 Priorities

Revving up the Bay Area and state economies will lead the Bay Area Council’s top priorities for 2012, with specific focus on reforming the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), creating a healthcare system that places a premium on controlling costs, and winning substantive reforms to our unsustainable public pension system. Those priorities are among five in which the Council will invest considerable time, energy and resources during the coming year. The Council will also focus on modernizing Caltrain, the outdated commuter rail service in the heart of the region’s biggest economic and jobs engine. In addition, the Council will expand its successful initiative to grow trade with China.

The priorities were finalized last week by the Council’s Executive Committee under the leadership of new Council Chair Janet Lamkin, who oversaw a comprehensive review of the Council’s priorities over the past several months. In establishing the priorities, the Executive Committee relied on staff research and analysis of various issues, member surveys, and a series of individual and group meetings.

Reforming CEQA. Despite some sector-specific dynamism, new research by the Council’s Economic Institute shows that the Bay Area economy essentially has been stuck in neutral for the past two decades.  Business leaders overwhelmingly point to burdensome regulations, including CEQA, workers’ compensation laws, and other red tape, as a main source of the problem.  The Council will produce empirical research to support what we know anecdotally.  We will build and lead a coalition of business groups and others in a major five-year effort to reduce the business regulations that have been stifling the Bay Area and California.  A key focus will be on stopping the continuing expansion of the California Environmental Quality Act and returning CEQA to its original scope and intent. To join us in reforming CEQA, please contact Policy Vice President Matt Regan at (415) 946-8710 or

Controlling Healthcare Costs. The healthcare cost-escalation crisis continues, harming businesses and consumers alike and jeopardizing our global competitiveness.  The Affordable Care Act created a framework that can be used to ratchet down rising health care spending, via state-based implementation. The Bay Area Council will continue to lead the business community and other allies behind a strategic vision of an affordable, high-quality health care system for California.  We will implement that vision through legislation to be enacted in 2012 and 2013 that will prioritize market-based solutions and technological innovations for reducing healthcare costs and improving patient health outcomes. To join us in controlling healthcare costs, please contact Senior Policy Advisor Micah Weinberg at

Reforming the Pension System. California’s unfunded pension and liabilities are estimated at $265 – $737 billion.  Add to that unfunded healthcare and pension liabilities at the county, city and special district level, and the numbers soar past the imagination.  In the short term and, especially in the long term, these liabilities mean much less money for services, education and infrastructure.  The Council will work with Governor Jerry Brown and proponents of a potential 2012 ballot measure to ensure that California reforms and manages public pensions in a fiscally stable manner. To join us in reforming pensions, please contact Policy Vice President Matt Regan at (415) 946-8710 or

Modernizing Caltrain. Surveys of business leaders and residents alike consistently cite traffic as the Bay Area’s top problem.  Congestion on Highway 101 between San Jose and San Francisco – our country’s most economically productive corridor – has particularly escalated.  Modernizing Caltrain would substantially increase its ridership and take thousands of cars a day off of Highway 101. Unfortunately, the modernization project has partial but incomplete funding.  The Council will lead an effort to build public and political support  to secure final funding and clear other hurdles, allowing the project to be completed, thereby reducing some of our region’s worst traffic. To join us in modernizing Caltrain, please contact Policy Vice President Michael Cunningham at (415) 946-8706 or

Expanding China Trade. Global trade is among the biggest drivers of Bay Area economic activity. Through our existing relationship with the Shanghai Yangpu District and a new large-scale “Technology Park” opportunity in Shanghai, we will continue to expand the presence and clout of Bay Area businesses in China with a physical landing pad, and attract more Chinese companies and investments to our region. To join us in increasing trade with China, please contact Director of Global Initiatives Bing Wei at (415) 946-8270 or

In addition to these strategic priorities, the Council will continue to collaborate with other partners in supporting a range of key issues, including cybersecurity legislation, high speed rail, science and technology education, water and energy efficiency, and protecting the Hetch Hetchy water system, among others.


San Francisco Chronicle: Come, let us brainstorm together

You’re a science or high-tech professional, and you’re looking for an online forum to kick around some ideas with your peers and find out what they’re up to.

You might check out BASIC – the Bay Area Council Economic Institute’s Science and Innovation Consortium - which launched this week.

The “online innovation hub,” according to its chairman, Mark Bregman, executive VP and CTO of Mountain View’s Internet security company Symantec, is supposed to “harness the region’s collective knowledge and ideas into a central location where we can foster a conversation about how to make the Bay Area more competitive in the 21st century global economy.”

It does boast a stellar board of directors, including the heads of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Sandia Labs and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, deans and research chieftains at UC campuses, and senior executives from Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Agilent Technologies (

Read the story…


San Francisco Examiner: Bay Area Council launches online innovation hub

The Bay Area Council Economic Institute’s Science and Innovation Consortium launched another tool to help leaders in the science and technology fields. The group started a new online innovation hub:, which will provide the Bay Area’s high-level science and technology professionals with an Internet venue where they share ideas on how to advance the region’s global competitiveness.

The new site will be the only one of its kind in the Bay Area. It will not only help connect the foremost thought-leaders on science and innovation in our region, but will be a promotional tool for those sectors. Visitors to the site will find a one-stop shop for information on the tech, biotech and science industries, including information on specific companies, current projects and university-level research.

“The Bay Area Council Economic Institute is proud to be fostering such a unique project,” said Sean Randolph, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute. “This new innovation hub will be an incredible tool for promoting the science and technology sectors in our region to the rest of the country and the world.”

Read the story…