Chancellor Block speaks at a basketball banquet; Chancellor Block, in academic attire, speaks at Commencement; Chancellor Block gestures with his hands

Globalization and Innovation: The Transformation of Higher Education in the 21st Century

International Presidential Forum on Global Research Universities

Seoul, Korea

October 16, 2012


Good morning. It’s a pleasure for me to address this august assembly about a topic I believe is extremely important.

I want to start by applauding KAIST on the overall theme of this year’s conference: “Effective Education and Innovative Learning.” And I am pleased to be able to focus my remarks on the topic you have selected for this first session: Innovation. My plan is to discuss innovation in the context of a powerful trend that is transforming higher education in the United States and around the world. That trend is globalization.

I should mention at the outset that much of the discussion today about innovation and education will inevitably focus on new technologies and education. My focus will be on another form of innovation: new ways of enhancing human capital through the globalization of education in a research context.

Globalization in all of its manifestations—economic, cultural, political, educational and scientific—poses myriad challenges and presents numerous opportunities. It’s not a panacea by any means, but when it comes to finding solutions to major world problems, there’s no substitute for pulling together the best minds and the most talented researchers from around the world. Talent increasingly operates in a global marketplace, whether you’re talking about executives and employees at large multinational corporations, or leading professional and Olympic athletes emerging from all corners of the globe, or faculty, students, researchers and even staff at leading global universities.

This conference itself—the fifth annual Presidential Forum on Research Universities—testifies to the reality and the potency of globalization in the 21st century.

I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate this Forum on the declaration you adopted on November 8, 2011. In particular, I would like to quote from one section of the declaration because it speaks directly to one of my overriding messages today. 

Under the heading “The Crucial Role of Research,” your 2011 declaration states: “Arrangements to conduct joint research involving international industries, academia, and government should be accelerated with a view to addressing the commanding problems of the 21st century, including the provision and preservation of energy, environment, water, food, and sustainability.”

I couldn’t agree more. I applaud KAIST and this Forum for the vision and leadership demonstrated by last year’s declaration, which echoes in many ways the “Top 10 Problems Facing Humanity over the Next 50 Years” as compiled by Nobel Laureate Richard Smalley. I’m sure many of you have heard about this so-called “Grand Challenges” initiative.

Smalley developed this list about 10 years ago. His point, which aligns closely with your declaration, was that there are a number of pressing problems—big challenges—facing humanity in the coming decades and that we need a concerted, global effort to tackle these challenges.

If you consider the list, it is clear that these truly are big, daunting issues—energy, water, poverty, disease, food—issues that simply cannot be solved by any one country, let alone by any single university. These problems cry out for a cooperative global response. They demand, in short, creative, innovative, global solutions.

But let’s be clear. These are not only global challenges requiring global solutions—that much is certain and even undeniable. I want to emphasize that they are long-term problems requiring prolonged attention and concerted action over time. These issues will not be solved quickly and there are no short-term fixes for these problems.

Unfortunately, in this short–attention-span age of 140-character Tweets, media sound bites, instant messages and Facebook posts, it’s not easy to focus attention and sustain commitments over long periods of time. It takes many decades in most cases.

Smalley talked about 50 years, and that was about 10 years ago. The clock is ticking and the same problems still linger on our collective to-do list. To address them effectively, we first must escape from what I call the tyranny of short-term thinking. Too often, we lurch from crisis to crisis, from one quarterly earnings report to the next, from election to election, from fiscal year to fiscal year—and we don’t take the long-term view. 

As educators, we all know that education and scientific inquiry generally are inherently long-term propositions—requiring patient, painstaking, long-term investments to produce meaningful results. There is no such thing as instant education, even with the fastest Internet speeds and massive bandwidth.

So with that said by way of preamble, let me turn now to an eye-opening report about global scientific collaboration that was published last year by the Royal Society in the United Kingdom. The Royal Society took an in-depth look at the growing global collaboration of scientists. The report is called “Knowledge, Networks and Nations,” and I would like to share with you a few of the recommendations and findings from it.

The report speaks directly to my thesis—that universities and researchers generally are pursuing an unprecedented amount of international, or cross-border, collaboration. And science itself is progressing as a result. The best minds in the world are increasingly at work collaborating across borders. This is clearly a good thing. This gives us reason for optimism that we’ll be able to seek and find solutions to pressing problems. In short, there is a “global nexus” in higher education operating with profound results.

Chris Llewellyn Smith, director of energy research at Oxford University and chair of the Royal Society’s study, welcomes the internationalization of science. Here is what he said upon the release of the Royal Society’s report: “Global issues, such as climate change, potential pandemics, bio-diversity, and food, water and energy security, need global approaches. These challenges are interdependent and interrelated, with complicated dynamics that are often overlooked by policies and programs put in place to address them.”

And he went on to say, “Science has a very important role in addressing global challenges and collaboration is necessary so that everybody can agree on global solutions. The more countries are involved in science, the more innovations we will have and the better off we will be.”

There are those two interrelated concepts again: globalization and innovation.

[Referring to slide] Here you see the five recommendations from the Royal Society contained in the “Knowledge, Networks and Nations” report. I won’t discuss these in detail; I just wanted you to get the gist of the Royal Society’s recommendations: Support for international science should be strengthened; international collaboration should be encouraged; national and international strategies are required to address global challenges; international capacity building is crucial; and so on. These are very important recommendations that underscore once again the critical message related to globalization and innovation.

If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, I highly recommend the report to you. It is well worth careful study. In fact, I could probably have devoted my entire presentation to discussing the findings contained in this very informative report. Instead, I will only touch on the report briefly.

The report makes an excellent, quantifiable case for the trend toward the globalization of research and, more importantly, how vitally important this trend is for the future. Let me just highlight two numbers drawn from the Royal Society’s report: Seven million and 1 trillion.

I’ll come back to these numbers later on, but I wanted to call them to your attention at this stage in the proceedings. These two numbers give me a certain amount of hope about the future. They make me more optimistic about humankind’s ability to learn and find solutions to big issues.

Seven million? That’s the number of researchers and scientists actively working in the world today. And 1 trillion? That’s the level of research and development spending—measured in U.S. dollars—around the world.

Both numbers have grown considerably in recent years and both continue to trend upward. They are actually a bit higher today because the most recent numbers in the Royal Society’s report are a few years old. But they are still in the ballpark. And more scientists and more R&D spending are reasons for optimism.

This slide shows a couple of things that are worth underscoring. First, as you can see, R&D spending has continued to increase fairly rapidly since the mid-1990s. In fact, it has more than doubled since 1996. But this graphic also depicts another important trend, namely the significant shift away from R&D spending in North America and Europe relative to R&D spending in Asia and the rest of the world. There is relatively more R&D spending going on in Asia and non-European and non-North American countries.

This is an important feature in the growing globalization of research we’re seeing. The world of R&D is not exactly flat—to borrow Thomas Friedman’s felicitous expression—but it is beginning to flatten out somewhat.

This slide takes some of that same data and gives us a picture of what’s going on in selected countries. The previous slide showed percentages of global R&D spending in broad areas of the world. North America, Europe, Asia. Here we see the recent trends and projected R&D spending in specific countries. The most obvious observation we can make about this slide is the dramatic jump in R&D spending in one country in particular: China.

The growth in China’s R&D investments is striking, from a very low level of spending in 2000—only 12 short years ago—to a real surge in R&D in recent years, and the expected continuation of that surge into the foreseeable future.

The United States has continued to make substantial investments in R&D, starting at a relatively high level of investment in 2000. The U.S. continues to increase the level of investment at a steady clip, investing about $400 billion per year in public and private R&D. Just five countries—the U.S., the U.K., Japan, Germany and France—are responsible for about 60 percent of the world’s R&D spending. But other countries on the bottom of the chart continue to make sizeable investments in R&D—including Japan and Korea and several other countries.

Again, a quick reminder of the overall shift: The percentage of global R&D spending is moving decidedly away from North America and Europe in the direction of Asia and other parts of the globe. That shift is an important point to keep in mind as we consider the increasing globalization of higher education, research and innovation that is at the heart of my presentation this morning.

And while I’m on the subject of R&D spending in the United States, I want to mention one reality because it relates specifically to UCLA and to university research programs. In the United States, the federal government funds approximately 60 percent of all university basic research. There’s a big reason for that and it actually circles back to my point about taking a long-term approach versus the tyranny of short-term thinking. Basic research is, by definition, a long-term proposition. The federal government tends to support basic research. This is a good thing because it is from basic research that we see so many interesting breakthroughs.

Private corporations, on the other hand, tend to focus more on short-term results. In a report issued in 2005 called “Rising Above the Gathering Storm,” the National Research Council pointed out that corporate R&D resources go “overwhelmingly to activities that are near-term and incremental rather than to long-term or discovery-oriented research.” The report explained that “Wall Street analysts increasingly focus on quarterly financial results and assign little value to long-term (and therefore risky) research investments or to social returns” … and that “companies cannot always fully capture a return that justifies long-term research.…”

I think it’s a good idea to keep that distinction in mind as we continue to explore the globalization of science and research.

[Referring to slide] This is a remarkable table: simple, but remarkable nonetheless. In just five years—from 2002 to 2007—the global investment in R&D increased by about $350 billion, the number of researchers grew by some 1.4 million and the number of published research papers jumped by about 500,000. That’s amazing. In just five years.

In 2008, the world’s 218 countries produced over 1.5 million research papers, with the U.K. producing 98,000, China 163,000 and the U.S. 320,000.

There has been, and continues to be, a veritable explosion in worldwide research, and this explosive growth is one of the reasons I think we can all be just a little bit more optimistic about the future. The increasingly global marketplace for talent—though far from perfect—means that for the first time in history we can honestly say that humankind will be able to benefit from many of our best and brightest minds working on the big challenges confronting society. I believe this will be increasingly the case in the decades ahead.

As I said earlier, the world isn’t exactly flat when it comes to R&D spending and scientific activities. It is flattening out around the world, relatively speaking, but R&D spending is quite uneven within countries. The Royal Society reported that in the United States in 2004, more than three-fifths of R&D spending was concentrated in only 10 states and that my state of California accounted for more than one-fifth of all R&D spending in the United States. This concentration of R&D is true in most countries. Moscow accounts for 50 percent of Russian research articles. Major cities like Prague, Seoul, Buenos Aires, London, Paris and Beijing are all responsible for a large proportion of the research articles in their respective countries.

[Referring to slide] This chart shows graphically that we’re seeing a marked shift in the top research publishing cities. The gray dots represent the top publishing cities from the 1996 to 2000 period. These are still very important centers of research publishing: Los Angeles, where UCLA is located, Washington, D.C., Toronto, New York, London, Rome, Paris, Berlin and Moscow. Important centers, to be sure.

But take note of the blue, yellow and red dots. These colored dots indicate the cities that have emerged as top publishing cities more recently—in the 2004 to 2008 period. It’s another way to depict the growing globalization of scientific research. I don’t want to spend much time on the specifics here. The point is more impressionistic. I’m trying to reinforce the shift, the trend toward more locations around the world where research and the publication of research papers is occurring. This map tells that story very dramatically.

The emerging, fast-growing publishing centers are located in cities like Nanjing, Shanghai, Sao Paolo, Hong Kong, Beijing, and last but by no means least Seoul, where this conference is being held.

[Referring to slide] I really like this particular slide but it might appear a bit daunting. Let me emphasize just a couple of points. First of all, the growth of world scientific research is evident by the relative sizes of the two wheels. The chart depicts the top ten countries in terms of authorship of scientific research. You could say this is yet another graphic that depicts the shift to other countries—especially China—away from the U.S. and Europe.

In the 1999 to 2003 period, the U.S. was responsible for about 26 percent of the world’s published scientific research. That percentage dropped to about 21 percent in the 2004 to 2008 period. Meanwhile, China’s portion of the world’s research grew from 4 percent to 10 percent, and other countries—those outside the top 10 —expanded their portion of world research from 30 percent to 34 percent.

Here is another way to look at the trend toward greater international coordination and collaboration among researchers from 1996 to 2008. As you can see, the proportion of scientific papers with more than one international author has been rising steadily. This is a good sign in terms of increased globalization, but it is also a good sign in terms of quality of research.

I particularly like this graphic because it makes the point that citations of research papers increase with the number of international researchers involved. The number of citations is one way to measure the quality of research. It is not definitive or foolproof, but it is one measure available to us. In addition, this result may represent something profound about international collaboration—a global nexus affecting the quality of scholarship.

Now let’s step back from scientific research and publication data and take a broader measure of the globalization of higher education. Since 1975, the international student population has more than quadrupled—from 800,000 to over 3.7 million in 2009. You might think of this widening pool of international students as the pipeline for succeeding waves of increased global science collaboration. Most likely these millions of international students are already, or will become, the source of cross-border research and scholarly collaboration. These students have the necessary international experience, along with contacts and language and cultural abilities.

Taking a look specifically at the United States, there is no question that the U.S. continues to attract a large share of the world’s international students. Over 700,000 study in the U.S., so roughly a fifth—about 20 percent—of the world’s international students study in the United States. But the reality in 2012 is that there are many other destinations around the world for international study, including, of course, Korea. This is very much in keeping with my message this morning that research and study are increasingly part of one big global marketplace for talent.

But just to put all of this in perspective, many other OECD countries are much more “international” than the United States. Yes, the United States commands a large portion of the international student population, but relative to the size of our domestic student population, the percentage of international students in the U.S. is quite low. Only 3.5 percent of the students in the United States are international students. The OECD average is almost twice that (6.4 percent) and some countries like Australia, the U.K., and Switzerland are much more international than the United States.

Having said that, some institutions in the United States have become much more international in recent years, and some states and communities in the United States are markedly more global than others. Cities like New York, Chicago and Boston are very international. UCLA is in the top 10 of U.S. universities in attracting a large contingent of international students. Los Angeles, of course, is a vibrant, bustling, cosmopolitan, global city at the crossroads of the Pacific Rim, Latin America, and North America. 

UCLA ranks sixth with over 6,200 international students: an 11 percent jump over 2009–10, when just under 5,700 were enrolled. That increase was more than double the national average of 5 percent for the same period. Just to round out the international picture, the number of UCLA students participating in study abroad programs has been steadily increasing. The university placed second among U.S. public universities and fourth overall, with 2,363 students earning academic credit for studying abroad in 2010–11.

In addition to attracting more international students and sending more of our students abroad for study opportunities, we have been aggressively involved in building our global presence by forging international partnerships and joint research affiliation arrangements with sister institutions abroad. Here in Korea, for example, over the past 30 years UCLA has signed academic exchange agreements with over 10 prestigious Korean institutions, facilitating exchanges of scholars along with agreements promoting joint research projects. 

All told, we have signed over 260 international agreements and memoranda of understanding around the world. In China, UCLA has established several research collaborations including the Joint Research Institute in Science and Engineering between Peking University and UCLA. This partnership has facilitated collaborative research projects ranging from semiconductor materials and microelectronics, to climate and environmental changes, to studies of vision. It also supports a robust student exchange program.

UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine has a long-standing partnership with Zhejiang University that includes a joint center for medical research and education and the UCLA- ZJU Medical Diagnosis Center at ZJU, enabling UCLA physicians to diagnose patients in China.

One example of our international research collaboration is a smart grid joint research project with Korea’s Institute of Energy Research. The idea is to create a smart energy grid on an international level that will lead to greater energy efficiency and lower costs, while significantly reducing our carbon output.

At UCLA, we’re retrofitting three buildings with cutting-edge wireless sensing and smart control systems. This will enable the smart grid to optimize power flows for appliances, lights heating and air conditioning. This particular project has attracted major funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Earlier I mentioned the level of federal funding for basic research in the United States, and I thought this slide would be of interest in this context. This is a partial list of noteworthy innovations that came about over the years as a result of the extremely productive partnership between research universities in the United States and the federal government. It is a remarkable record of life-changing and in some cases life-saving innovations from GPS to MRI technology, DNA analysis, weather forecasting and even the Internet.

By the way, just a little trivia about UCLA and the Internet: The very first email message in history was sent by researchers at UCLA to a computer at Stanford University. The message was sent over ARPANET, the U.S. funded Advanced Research Projects Agency, on October 29, 1969—43 years ago this month.

The Internet is one of the great innovations born from a successful partnership between the federal government and research universities in the United States.

With that history in mind, here is a quick profile of UCLA as a public research university. [Referring to slide] I won’t dwell on all of these statistics, but we’re very proud of the fact that we have garnered roughly $1 billion in competitively awarded grants and contracts in each of the past three years. This puts UCLA in the top echelon of research universities nationwide. These resources enable UCLA to generate innovations that help create new jobs, businesses and industries—and breakthroughs in engineering, medicine, energy and a wide variety of other areas.

One initiative that we’re particularly excited about is the California NanoSystems Institute, with locations at UCLA and UC Santa Barbara. CNSI encourages international collaborations with a focus on industry-relevant areas such as renewable energy, alternative fuels, hydrogen storage, water purification, nanosafety and nanotoxicology, three-dimensional batteries, early-stage medical diagnostics, targeted drug delivery and molecular switches.

It is a vitally important project because CNSI is all about groundbreaking science and groundbreaking education catalyzed by a highly international environment. It is also important because we’re crossing disciplinary boundaries—a model for how the university will operate in the future—creating a cross‐training hub for students and post-docs from across campus. CNSI also spurs campus entrepreneurship and commercialization efforts, with a track record of starting up and spinning out new companies. It houses a research incubator for new businesses.

[Referring to slide] The most interesting thing about this slide is the fact that this ranking even exists. It’s a new ranking from Forbes magazine about the most entrepreneurial colleges in the United States. I am pleased to say that UCLA ranks in the top 10. The ranking is based on the number of alumni from these universities who went on to found the most companies with 10 or more employees.

I’ll only mention a few highlights. At MIT, for instance, as of 2006 there were 25,600 active companies founded by MIT alumni, employing approximately 3.3 million people. That’s remarkable. Harvard has produced 10 self-made billionaires—more than any other school on this Forbes list. Harvard billionaire alumni include Steve Ballmer of Microsoft and Sumner Redstone, among others. Just think about that for a minute. That’s a pretty exclusive alumni association—Harvard billionaires.

The University of Pennsylvania boasts Elon Musk as one of its entrepreneur alumni. He is the founder of SpaceX, with approximately $4 billion in contracts. He also cofounded Tesla Motors and PayPal. Princeton alumnus Jeff Bezos, a member of the class of 1986, launched when he was 31. Finally, UCLA alumni Allen Adham, Michael Morhaime and Frank Pearce cofounded Blizzard Entertainment in 1991. Blizzard has over 12 million online videogame players worldwide.

I mention these alumni entrepreneurs because encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship are fast becoming top priorities, not only at UCLA but at many universities in the United States and around the world.

Here is a graphic that highlights the startups, inventions, patents and technology licenses at UCLA during fiscal year 2011. I won’t dwell on all of these statistics, but will just mention a few highlights: 19 companies were launched during 2011 to commercialize UCLA innovations—more than any other University of California campus. We actually rank in the top five in the U.S. in terms of the number of startup companies launched. UCLA has more than 1,800 active inventions in our portfolio, and each year we add more than 300 new inventions.

At the end of the 2011 fiscal year, 437 UCLA innovations were actively licensed by companies to develop into products for the marketplace—companies based in Los Angeles and overseas. In total, UCLA has 631 active patents issued in the U.S. and 628 active international patents. Our view is: if you can manage to encourage and enable an entrepreneurial spirit on campus, doing so will benefit the university and the world at large in countless ways.

In wrapping up my comments this morning, I would like to say just a few words about four innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives at UCLA.

First, last year, we launched an exciting initiative to establish what we called an “Ecosystem for Entrepreneurs” at UCLA. The idea was to create a multidisciplinary approach to teaching and research along with new structures that encourage entrepreneurial thinking and action. As stated in the report that launched this initiative last year: “Research universities have one unique responsibility that lies only with them among all institutions of higher learning: to address the great challenges of our time, be those disease, poverty or the environment. These biggest problems will not be solved by government, the courts, or the private sector: the nation looks to us, the brightest students and most creative faculties working in our classrooms and laboratories, to discover innovative solutions.”

This initiative will impact the way we teach and prepare our students for future careers as well as transform the way we deal with intellectual property.

My second UCLA example involves the creative use of online technology to address career development needs. The initiative is called Empowered UCLA Extension. It is a partnership with a Silicon Valley company and an exciting attempt to reinvent education and career counseling for the job market of the 21st century. This is a nationwide program that was specifically designed for baby boomers—generally defined as Americans born between 1946 and 1964—who want to make a career change, get ahead professionally or re-enter the workforce.

Empowered UCLA Extension provides job-oriented, online certificate programs designed for real-world employment needs, integrated with personalized career counseling. Courses are offered on an iPad. Online classes began this September in 10 certificate programs designed for areas of job growth, including global sustainability, health care management, nonprofit management, IT management, patient advocacy, college counseling, project management, financial planning, human resources, and marketing and new media. Classes are designed to be flexible to enable working adults to complete the program within 12 months.

This is an innovative and novel career-focused program that we believe will be of enormous benefit to baby boomers—and others—who want to make career changes that are suited to the evolving needs of the marketplace.

The third UCLA initiative I want to mention briefly is our EURECA program, which we launched in collaboration with our partners in Russia. EURECA stands for Enhancing University Research and Entrepreneurial Capacity. The goal of this program is to develop collaborative partnerships between U.S. and Russian universities that will result in building and strengthening the capacity of Russian research universities to become centers of excellence, capable of integrating academic study, scientific research and entrepreneurship. In turn, we hope these institutions will be in a stronger position to partner with U.S. institutions.

Finally, I want to end where I began, with the idea of Grand Challenges designed to address pressing global problems facing humankind. From the X Prize Foundation to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the term “Grand Challenges” has become a part of the national discourse. Institutions across sectors embrace Grand Challenges because they recognize the power of bold solutions and the need to foster breakthroughs in science and technology. Importantly, they are problems that require highly integrated, multidisciplinary efforts that create new models for scholarly interactions.

Although we’re still in the early stages, I can share with you that UCLA is in the process of developing a program we call the UCLA Grand Challenge Initiative. By launching a grand challenges initiative, UCLA will hopefully become a leader in this emerging approach to solving global mega-problems. I am proud that UCLA research has led to some significant scientific breakthroughs. From revolutionizing energy consumption and reshaping our understanding of galaxies to helping create the Internet, these accomplishments prove that when we set our sights on great achievements, when we focus our energies, talents and imaginations on finding answers to big questions, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.

That’s true of UCLA. It’s also true of many educational institutions around the world.

Research universities will increasingly compete and cooperate on a global scale and, in the process, will push the envelope on collaborative innovations that address the most pressing global problems facing humanity. The global nexus, with its multicultural composition, is transforming scholarship in highly creative ways. The sum is much greater than the parts.

Thank you for your attention and your dedication to the cause of globalization of education and research.