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Investing in innovation

Published: February 20, 2013
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National Engineers Week is a time to celebrate advancements in the field and emphasize the importance of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. It's also a good time to emphasize the importance of partnerships to attract and grow STEM-based jobs for Oklahoma.

Gov. Mary Fallin's Science and Technology Council's strategic plan, OneOklahoma, projects an annual average growth of more than 6,900 in STEM jobs, and sets a total employment goal of 160,000 in high-technology businesses or organizations by 2020.

These projections illustrate the importance of Oklahoma's public and private sectors to work together to make that happen.

Higher learning institutions are taking steps to encourage an entrepreneurial spirit among their students. At the University of Oklahoma College of Engineering, students complete a required undergraduate course to learn about the business side of invention and innovation, including preparing a business plan and making a sales pitch. Some students intern at OU's Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth, where they help move research and development out of the university laboratories and into the marketplace.

The collective efforts of education, public organizations and private industry to invest in research and development can attract and grow STEM jobs in Oklahoma. Whether it's through established organizations, or encouraging the entrepreneur behind the innovation, we can be the engine, or engineer, of economic growth.

Thomas Landers, Oklahoma City

Landers is dean of the University of Oklahoma College of Engineering, the AT&T Chair and professor of industrial and systems engineering.