Sun shining on engineers

March 1, 2009
Finally, science and technology are once again elevated to their rightful pedestal as the means to a stable and prosperous future for Americans. Washington's

Finally, science and technology are once again elevated to their rightful pedestal as the means to a stable and prosperous future for Americans. Washington's new $787.2 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is packed with incentives for scientists and engineers, including substantial financing for developing clean energy, modernizing roads, bridges, and transit systems, and most importantly, transforming our economy with science and technology.

As stated in the Committee on Appropriation's summary, “We need to put scientists to work looking for the next great discovery, creating jobs in cutting-edge technologies, and making smarter investments that will help businesses in every community succeed in the global economy.” It's not just talk either; cold hard cash is backing up this language. We've posted the stimulus summary on in our Whitepapers area for easy access. To whet your appetite, in case you haven't heard all the specifics, here are some projects that sound especially promising for engineers and scientists:

  • Reliable, Efficient Electricity Grid: $11 billion for research and development, pilot projects, and federal matching funds

  • Renewable Energy Loan Guarantees: $6 billion in loans for renewable energy power generation and transmission projects

  • GSA Federal Buildings: $4.5 billion for renovations and repairs to federal buildings, focused on increasing energy efficiency

  • Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Research: $2.5 billion for research, development, demonstration, and deployment activities

  • Advanced Battery Grants: $2 billion to support U.S. manufacturers of advanced vehicle batteries and battery systems

  • Training for Green Jobs: $500 million to prepare workers for careers in energy efficiency and renewable energy fields

  • National Science Foundation: $3 billion, including $2 billion for expanding employment in fundamental science and engineering

  • Department of Energy: $2 billion for research in the physical sciences including high-energy physics, nuclear physics, and fusion energy

  • NASA: $1 billion, including $400 million to put more scientists to work in climate-change research

All of these green initiatives will take time to bear fruit, but at least we have a beginning. While technologies are being expanded and improved — solar, wind, biofuels, nuclear, clean coal, hydrogen, electric batteries, and other ideas not yet imagined — we'll all need to conserve energy to buy time. Think about how you and your job relate to the stimulus plan and where you might make a difference with creative, efficient designs.

I leave you with one final thought. Last month, I interviewed Dr. Leah Jamieson, dean of Purdue University's engineering college, and she said, “Offshoring, outsourcing, and the economic downturn are creating uncertainty about engineering careers. At the same time, innovation is being cited as the key to economic development. We need to tighten that connection — that engineering is innovation and that we are the innovators.”

Let us know what you think about the new stimulus plan. We'd like to include your thoughts in our May report on American manufacturing.

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