California's Future as a High-Tech Leader

October 2, 2008

Stanford Park Hotel
Menlo Park, CA


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From Silicon Valley′s Internet innovators to San Diego′s biotech clusters, California has long been a leader in high tech.

But according to a recent study by the Milken Institute, that leadership position is being challenged — not only nationally, but globally.

To examine what California must to do prevent an erosion of its technology and science assets, the Milken Institute and Goodwin Procter brought together several of the state's leaders in technology and public policy to offer their insights on the challenges that lie ahead.

Panelists included Tim Draper, founder and managing director of Draper Fisher Jurvetson; Robert Klein, chairman of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine; Gavin Newsom, mayor of San Francisco; and Ross DeVol, director of Regional Economics at the Milken Institute and the author of California's Position in Technology and Science. Stephen Ferruolo, a partner at Goodwin Procter, moderated the discussion at the Stanford Park Hotel.

The panelists agreed that California still has many strong assets, including some of the best universities in the world and a strong entrepreneurial spirit.

But the high cost of doing business, high taxes and the state's poor K-12 education system are causing many tech firms to look elsewhere, they warned.

To overcome these challenges, the state must create a more favorable business climate and offer incentives to high-tech companies and their employees.

One positive example, Klein said, was the 2004 decision by voters to approve the $3 billion stem cell research initiative, which gave a tremendous boost to this important new life sciences sector. The result could be thousands of new high-paying jobs that will lift the state′s overall economy, he predicted.

"It′s an investment in our intellectual capital that will drive prosperity in the future," Klein said. "We are making a long-term strategic investment."

Newsom said his city has been successful in attracting some prominent biotech and nanotech firms by offering various incentives.

Draper said lower business costs, better incentives, improvements in K-12 and rebuilding the transportation infrastructure are just a few of his recommended solutions for maintaining California's high-tech prowess.

DeVol called for a comprehensive statewide high-tech strategy, which California currently lacks. He expressed concern that Sacramento doesn′t fully understand the seriousness of the issue.

"We don't have anyone minding the store," he said.

To view the study upon which this Forum was based, go to the go to the California's Position in Technology and Science page.