Impressive Stats About Foreign-Born Innovators
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A Partnership for a New American Economy study finds that foreign-born scientists and engineers are doing a lot to help the U.S. innovate and stay globally competitive.
The report looked at the role that foreign-born scholars, faculty, and students play at the top ten patent-producing universities in the U.S. It found that 76% of patents awarded to these universities in 2011 had at least one foreign-born inventor. At Caltech it was 82%, at Georgia Tech it was 88%, and at the University of Illinois it hit 90%.
New companies often spring from these efforts. “From 1980 to 2010, more than 6,000 new companies were created to commercialize research conducted at U.S. universities,” the report states.
Immigrant students specifically come to the U.S. because of our innovative spirit. According to Marios Demetriou, a senior research associate at Caltech, who works on “amorphous” metals that are moldable like plastic, his attitude changed once he came to America. “I was way more motivated once I got here. That’s the thing about the United States: It’s a country where people willing to work hard really have good prospects.”
Demetriou’s research was validated when rumors floated that Apple might use similar amorphous metal technology in a future version of the iPhone.
While highlighting the innovation foreign-born students and researchers are delivering to the economy, the report also notes that many of these innovators might not be able to stay in the U.S. “More than half of the patents (54%) were awarded to the group of foreign-born inventors most likely to face visa hurdles: students, postdoctoral fellows, or staff researchers,” the report finds.
We’re in a strange situation where America invites students to learn at some of the world’s best universities and invent new technologies only to make it difficult for them to remain here to work or launch a business. “This is madness,” said Google’s Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt in a CNN interview.
The report has three recommendations to Congress to fix this:
- Give green cards to those who earn science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduate degrees in the U.S.
- Create visas for entrepreneurs.
- Remove or raise the caps on temporary high-skilled work visas.
The report makes clear the valuable contribution the American economy gets from foreign-born students and researchers. We need to continue drawing world-class talent to America and allow that talent to continue innovating to create jobs and grow the economy.