By Barbara Bry
The local biotech company Human Longevity recently announced that it raised $220 million in venture capital funding to expand its cutting-edge research to apply large scale computing to the most comprehensive human genome database. This could result in discoveries that revolutionize medicine. This is just one example of why our innovation sector is one of the most important economic engines of our city.
According to San Diego's Regional Economic Development Corporation, the life sciences industry generates more than $31.8 billion in total economic impact in San Diego. These funds contribute to the tax base we use to fix our streets and sidewalks; reduce traffic; hire enough first responders; protect our beaches; and conserve our water supply. So how do we create the next generation of local high-tech and biotech leaders – the J. Craig Venters, Irwin Jacobs and Tina Novas – who will drive our economy forward and create good-paying jobs?
As the first high-tech entrepreneur on the City Council, I will actively build partnerships between existing educational resources and our youth. With UCSD and companies like Illumina, Qualcomm, and Human Longevity in our backyard, District 1 has a wealth of resources in the high-tech and biotech industries that we can connect to our youth. This strategy will not cost the City a dime and will help build the talent pipeline we need to keep and attract innovative companies while also seeking to create more opportunities for women and minorities to enter these growing industries.
For instance, I will work with universities, research institutions, and businesses in District 1 to increase outreach to our schools and create meaningful internship experiences to attract local talent into the innovation economy. I also will leverage existing resources and programs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) to ensure that students learn about, and are inspired by, the opportunities available to them in San Diego. To ensure that our students are receiving a well-rounded education in preparation for future careers, we should also emphasize arts education in curriculums, making it STEAM education.
Examples of programs that we could partner with or expand include:
- Qualcomm’s Thinkabit Lab for K – 12 students
- The Salk Institute’s Mobile Science Lab
- J. Craig Venter Institute’s DiscoverGenomics! Science Education Program
- CONNECT2Careers summer employment program
- RH Fleet Science Center’s 52 Weeks of Science
I also would like to expand access to programs such as Hour of Code, a one-hour introduction to computer science to demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics. Providing more opportunities to programs like SD Hacks at UC San Diego also could yield positive learning experiences for our youth and train them with the necessary skills to compete in an increasingly highly specialized and technical economy. I would also encourage chairs of local high school science departments to recommend the best and brightest students to the programs listed above.
It is important to recognize that there is a need for many non-technical jobs in the innovation sector, including finance, accounting, insurance, law, and marketing. Internships that offer on-the-job experience in those fields will help to prepare the workforce for all jobs within of the innovation sector.