A parking structure at the
University of California, San
Diego, uses innovative solar
trees to collect renewable
American lawmakers are not
taking the issue of energy and
climate seriously enough to
put the right policies in place
from the farmers. This happens in India, too, but they have
established a change in policy. Until we have a firm policy
in place we (in America) are not going to succeed. There
really needs to be a clean energy policy or a carbon price.
Why would companies invest until that happens?
As an American I think this is a very serious issue. We do
have to take it much more seriously than it is being taken
right now. The industry is not saying that ‘do not regulate
us.’ All they are saying is that ‘give us a definite policy and
then we will do it. They need a firm benchmark.
Are there other reasons besides the political divide?
I do not know. A lot of it is the political divide… We know
some people do not believe in climate change. That is a
problem. We scientists have not done a good job to convince everybody that this is a real problem.
What would it take to be more convincing?
I actually believe we all have to speak up that the energy
issue is one of the most defining issues of our time. It is not
just the climate or environment; it is also of great importance for our national security. We as a country, and I am
speaking as an American, went to two wars because of oil
and we are importing so much oil! It does not make sense
that we do not find a substitute for it. So, it is a very important national security problem as well despite the economic problem and environment problems. It needs to be
viewed as national defense issue and as a high priority.
There may be differences of opinions here and there among
engineering deans, but basically all agree that this is a
major and important problem that needs to be solved. We
are sending so many dollars to Saudi Arabia and Iraq!
Are you kind of bothered by the US policy on climate
Yes, because we are not taking the issue of energy and climate seriously enough to put the right policies in place. We
need a definite policy, but right now we do not have any
policy. Once you put the price on carbon, fix the clean energy standard, the industry will follow and innovate. But they
will not innovate if policies fluctuate all the time. We need
stable policies as national priority. People are not listening
because the political system is not working the way it
If the political divide continues, what do you think is going
to be the future of the US in terms of innovations that are
If that happens, in the long tem, I have this fear that the
US will — you know Great Britain is still a great country
but is not the leading country any more — always be a great
country, but we may not necessarily be the leader. Even in
the areas of information technology, where we made a lot of
innovation, things are changing a lot. We in our policy are
lagging behind even Europe. We do not have a communications standard for wireless communications. We are not
the most advanced in terms of using wireless communications technology and that effect will show up 20 years
down the road. We will still be a great country, but not the
greatest country. That is a great fear for me. After a while,
we will fall behind.
MIKE BLAKE/REU TERS
At the Belfour conference in September you said technol-
ogy executives have to build organizations that are able to
translate inventions into innovations in the long haul.
This needs understanding not just in the US, but also in
countries like India. Creativity is having an original idea or
thought, whether in science, journalism or economics.
Innovation is having a creative idea or thought, which has
economic value, which actually impacts society in a broad
way. It really impacts society economically. Innovations
lead to more innovations. So, translating one for the sake of
society is very important. Sometimes it starts with science
and sometimes it starts with technology and it works both
ways. It is not uni-directional. It is a complex interactive
ecosystem. The basic thing is what we need for the future.
Scientists need a goal and they will invent
Do you think the scenario is different in India?
I am very worried about that. Indians are very entrepreneurial, but the science and engineering establishments
need to evolve significantly. If you take the IITs (Indian
Institutesof Technology), they obviously are great and the
reason they are great, is because they are very merit-orient-ed institutions and take the brightest students just like
Harvard or MIT. But we do not have a culture where we
have been able to build research institutions where
research and education can go together. In India we have
followed the old British model where we would have some
research institutes and the IITs will do undergraduate
teaching. We need to change that big time. I love India, I
was born in India and had my early education there. Still I
would say that India does need to change. We need to integrate research and education. The national laboratory of
science or some such other institutions are separated from
education. And that in my view has to change.