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Friday, January 18, 2013

THE UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII: HOW TO BECOME A WORLD CLASS INSTITUTION

A little more than a month ago I posted on:

WHAT CAN THE UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII DO TO BECOME GREAT?

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Recently, the UH had a 40 page promotional insert in the Star Advertiser:  HI 2:  University of Hawaii Innovation Initiative--The Sky is Not the Limit.  Today, the daily paper featured an Insight editorial two-pager on President MRC Greenwood.  Clearly, she spearheaded the effort for the University's new innovation economy push.


The University of Hawaii has more than 60,000 students, with 20,000 on the primary Manoa Campus.  It is a $1.4 billion operation with  1/3 from external grants/funds, 1/3 from State appropriations and one third from student tuition fees.  We rank in the same category as schools like Virginia, Oregon and Notre Dame--not at the top, but in the range around #50.  In fact we are #51 among 689 national universities in federal R&D success.  The total economic contribution of academic funding to R&D since 1970 was around $30 billion.  All in all, not bad for an institution in a small state in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.


My view?  Great, but mediocre.  We are better in the ocean and atmospheric/space sciences, plus are being recognized for a range of sustainable energy programs.  We try to take advantage of our special status as the interface between the U.S. and the Orient, and do well in certain languages, cultures, business and law.  But overall, we are definitely average.

So how can the University of Hawaii become a world class institution?  We start by continuing at what we do well.  Let's first be thankful for what we have.  Average is a lot better than what can be expected under worst case circumstances.

While panic is perhaps counterproductive, we need to show more desperation, as the death of U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye and the threat of Peak Oil mean that we will soon, and certainly by the Year 2020, be faced with an economic downfall of epic proportions.  It is really already too late, but this means we might still be able to ameliorate the coming pain.

But with a poor State government, a largely broken Federal system, stifling union demands and an industry aided by environmentalists and native rights advocates dedicated to preserving our environment, perhaps ironically for the sake of tourism, what can we do?  High tech in the traditional sense will just not happen.  What we have related to defense expenditures will only decline over time.  The ocean is our only hope.  

The effort has begun, but we regularly take backward steps.  Maricultural firms keep going bankrupt, the prime product from the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority is deep ocean fresh water (through reverse osmosis), and we sunk the Super Ferry.  

Blue Revolution Hawaii, a group of local individuals, has initiated a program to intelligently develop our ocean resources in harmony with the marine environment.  They have proposed the Pacific Ocean International Station (PIOS) as the Planet Earth counterpart for the International Space Station (ISS), which is struggling, and has not yet produced a commercial product.  For one percent the $150 billion cost of the ISS, PIOS is being planned to design, construct and operate a floating platform powered by ocean thermal energy conversion to technology transfer in partnership with the private sector a cornucopia of natural industries, ranging from next generation fisheries, marine biomass plantations, green chemicals, hydrogen, biofuels, exciting new habitats and the like.  There is also potential for remediating global warming and preventing the formation of hurricanes.  The University of Hawaii can lead the research to make this all happen.

What is lacking is money.  To the right:  $1 billion in $100 dollar bills.  Forget government.  There is no large industry in Hawaii interested and capable of funding this effort.  We do have billionaires.  Click on:


if you already haven't to gain a hint of the strategy.  The thinking is in the very early stage, but the potential is promising for the University of Hawaii, the State of Hawaii and Blue Revolution Hawaii to gain the leadership of a billionaire or two or three to save the 50th State and lift it to world class status.

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