“Partnerships between universities and companies are a win-win for both sides”

Remarks by Ambassador Robert Blake for the Zone 24/7 Dedication at Moratuwa University – September 6, 2007:

I’d like to thank Zone 24/7 for their kind invitation to address you today.

This is my second visit to Moratuwa University, one of Sri Lanka’s finest. In all of the conversations I have with the business community and others about the need for capacity to train students to succeed in working with new technologies, this university always figures prominently as one of the best.I am also very happy that a top American and Sri Lankan company, Zone 24/7, is with us today. Zone 24/7 represents an industry leader in technology development, both in my country and yours. It is a testament to this university that a high-quality, cutting-edge company such as Zone 24/7 has chosen it for this special partnership.

[Ambassador Robert Blake – Pic: File Photo]

The United States, in many ways, pioneered the idea of partnerships between universities and companies. Most, if not all, major U.S. universities have public-private partnerships. These partnerships are with both private and public institutions of higher learning, such as Harvard, Columbia, the University of California and the University of Michigan.

Such partnerships are a win-win for both sides: universities are ensured a flow of income and new ideas from the marketplace that help them promote research while producing students who are qualified and desired by private companies.

These partnerships are also a key reason why the U.S. leads the world in producing new ideas and new technologies. More than 2/3rds of the world’s Nobel Prize winners have been American, many of them rewarded for research done at American universities.

New technologies have always been at the core of our economic strength. For example: Two-thirds of America’s growth in the 1990s resulted from the introduction of new technologies. A new report released on Monday by the International Labor Organization (ILO) showed that the United States has the most productive workers in the world. What makes U.S. workers so successful? Jose Manuel Salazar, the ILO’s Head of Employment, said that America’s productivity “has to do with the ICT (information and communication technologies) revolution…[and] with the high level of competition in the country.”

Simply put — the U.S. actively fosters an environment where technology innovators can succeed. We lead the world because our system of private enterprise rewards innovation. Companies, universities, and the government are working to give our workers the best technology and the best training to make sure that the American economy remains the most flexible, advanced, and productive in the world.

Another key factor in our success is that the U.S. is a leader is intellectual property rights protection. Our strong climate of protecting intellectual property encourages domestic and foreign innovators to create and produce in America. American technology continues to meet the ever-increasing demands of business customers and individual consumers because we can, and do, protect IPR.

Customers, meanwhile, are secure in the knowledge that they are purchasing a real product and not wasting their money or putting themselves or their families at risk by purchasing fake goods. Ensuring adequate IPR protection promotes job creation, increases income in innovative companies and allows for greater revenue collection by governments. I hope that Sri Lanka will do more to promote intellectual property rights.
Today’s partnership between the University of Moratuwa and Zone 24/7 and gthe success of other Sri Lankan companies such as Virtusa and h-Senid demonstrate Sri Lanka’s potential to be a leader in IT services. But there is much to be done to realize that potential.

In a recent survey of IT competitiveness of 64 countries by global industry association Business Software Alliance, Sri Lanka ranked #50. The technical expertise and entrepreneurial spirit of Sri Lanka’s IT sector are generating significant opportunities for Sri Lanka to develop the technology portion of its economy.

But Sri Lanka’s IT leaders report they are constrained by the short supply of qualified employees. The demand for creative, English-speaking, well-educated individuals is already larger than the supply, and the shortage is worsening. Staffing the nascent IT sector will be one of Sri Lanka’s most important challenges over the coming decade. Zone 24/7’s efforts today are a step in the right direction to address this shortage. I hope that others will follow in its footsteps.

Again, I congratulate both University of Moratuwa and Zone 24/7 for this impressive project and cooperation. I hope this is just the beginning of a long and productive collaboration, and a model for others to emulate.

Thank you.

[Source: US Embassy News, Sri Lanka]

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