Bay Area Council Blog: Science and Innovation Archive



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…



The Bay Area Science and Innovation Consortium (BASIC) today announced the launch of its new science and technology online innovation hub:  The site provides the Bay Area’s high level science and technology professionals a virtual hub here they can interact and discuss ideas for advancing the region’s global competitiveness.

“With the region’s most innovative thought-leaders and professionals spread out all across the Bay Area at public universities, companies and research institutions, there’s no way for them to constantly interact and share their ideas with each other,” said Dr, Mark Bregman, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Symantec and BASIC’s Chairman.  “This online innovation hub will harness all of 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.”

The new site will be the only one of its kind in the Bay Area.  It not only will help connect the foremost thought-leaders on science and innovation in our region, but also will provide the Bay Area community with the opportunity to participate in online “open forums” to discuss regional actions to address the issues impacting the region’s global innovation competitiveness.

“As the parent organization of BASIC, the Bay Area Council Economic Institute is proud to be fostering such a unique project,” said Sean Randolph, President and CEO of the Economic Institute.  “This new innovation hub will prove to be an incredible tool for promoting the science and technology sectors in our region and showcasing the innovation of the Bay Area in the national spotlight.”

PDF Press Release


BASIC Board of Director Steven Chu Selected as U.S. Secretary of Energy


The scientific community has expressed impressive and enthusiastic support for the appointment of a highly-qualified and dedicated scientist from the Bay Area to lead the country’s response to the energy and climate change challenges. President-Elect Obama selected Steve Chu, Nobel prize winning physicist, Director of the region’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Board Director of the Bay Area Science and Innovation Consortium (BASIC) for the key position of U.S. Secretary of Energy.

President-Elect Obama has targeted alternative energy and climate change as priority areas for his administration – areas in which Dr. Chu is recognized as a global leader.

Under Dr. Chu’s guidance, the Berkeley Lab and the Bay Area became notable as the center of research into biofuels and solar energy. Dr. Chu was a major contributor to the 2007 BASIC science futures report, “Innovative Energy Solutions from the San Francisco Bay Area: Fueling a Clean Energy Future.” In his letter within the report, Dr. Chu stated, “…among America’s most serious concerns are national security (intimately tied to our energy security), long-term economic competitiveness and the dangers of global warming. I believe that energy is at the center of all these concerns, and thus is the single most important problem that science and technology must solve in the coming decades…”

BASIC, an action-oriented collaboration of the region’s major research universities, national research laboratories, independent research institutions and research and development-driven businesses, is dedicated to advancing the Bay Area’s science, technology and innovation leadership.

BASIC is a program of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute within the Bay Area Council’s Foundation.


Request for Proposal: 50K Fellowship Program

Bay Area Science and Innovation Consortium (BASIC) has created its first Fellowship Program to benefit region’s future leaders in science and technology and to highlight the Bay Area’s innovation and global competitiveness. We areissuing a Request for Proposals for the design of a Global Innovation Networks Project. The RFP deadline is December 1, 2008.

Download RFP Document

BASIC is a program of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute within the Bay Area Council Foundation.