Tough problems demand closer partnerships, collaboration
Industry, government, academia must work together to meet global needs
- By Haden Land
- Dec 13, 2012
Recently, I spoke at the Missouri University of Science & Technology’s Complex Adaptive Systems Conference to a highly specialized, yet diverse global audience from academia, government and industry.
The big takeaway? The explosion of technology means that its users in nearly every profession are experiencing benefits and growing pains associated with Moore’s law and the need to bend existing cost curves. From defense to health care, to energy and environmental subjects, and the commercial and academic worlds – there are applied and future solutions available for many global issues, but it’s going to take an even stronger partnership between industry and academia to affordably and effectively identify and implement the right solutions for global good.
To me, this means a bigger focus on growing the right talent not only to implement advanced technological solutions, but also the talent to create them.
As a conference participant with a background in academia and industry, I was humbled by the presentations that were shared. Leading technologists and academic experts discussed applied and future solutions to global issues including improving health care delivery and quality; managing global air traffic; advancing machine learning; and improving our power infrastructure. It’s clear that academia, industry and government cannot tackle these challenges separately.
Our collaboration is critical for workforce development. We must prepare a workforce that can effectively manage the needs and complexity of highly advanced complex adaptive systems, known as CAS.
We’re already seeing a bow wave of new career fields. Job titles like data scientist, digital forensic scientist and nanocomposite engineer are already relatively commonplace, with forthcoming career fields to include neuromorphic architecture, quantum linguistics, biomimicicry engineering.
Responding effectively to these new roles means a continued focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills. However, while a focus on STEM produces marketable talent; to manage CAS effectively we should ensure that students are receiving the right mix of educational experiences. To do so we’ll need to integrate liberal arts into the STEM curriculum, engaging the left and right brain, what some of my partners in academia are calling science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics education, known as STEAM.
STEAM combines the best in STEM and liberal arts curricula so students are ready to become employees who can take on complex multi-disciplinary roles. An example of STEAM in action would be an employee with a strong background in statistics, programming and graphic design who is responsible for visualizing complex big data. Respected educational institutions such as Potsdam University in New York have recognized the strong job placement opportunities for students with STEAM-focused curriculum and are leading the charge to integrate the engineering and liberal arts disciplines.
Preparing a workforce is only one piece of the CAS puzzle. Developing and implementing these advanced technologies poses an equally important challenge that only a combined effort can solve. Many of the technologies and methodologies that CAS utilize go beyond existing technology or the tactical research and development that corporations often perform to meet medium-term needs, necessitating an innovative approach to development.
At Lockheed Martin, we’re joining forces with academia, government and industry partners to identify CAS technology in fields like advanced biology, nanotechnology and quantum computing. These fields are applicable to our needs, and we’re focused on taking them from future-tech to practical technology. We’re helping to pull the future to the present and enabling innovation by creating a pathway for these advanced technologies to reach practical applications. Our focus on meeting defined needs with CAS technology solutions means that we’re solving problems in a financially responsible manner. Our work in quantum computing, nanotechnology, microfluidics and advanced simulation all demonstrate our commitment to bringing future technology to bear on today’s problems.
The unpredictable nature of today’s political, economic and technology landscape provides both opportunity and challenge. Advancing and enabling innovation across the collective CAS landscape are essential for global competitiveness
One thing for certain is that technology is everywhere, and we know it works. Now we need to catch up the talent pool so it can be created, harnessed and applied effectively. I believe that “today’s technology combined with yesterday’s magic is tomorrow’s given,” but the challenge is to identify which magic will make a difference.
Haden Land is the vice president of engineering and chief technology officer of Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Solutions.