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Unique video explains 'innovation deficit'

February 27, 2014

The colored markers and spiral pad of paper give the TV studio at Colorado State University the feeling of a child’s craft room: but this is not child’s play. The artist and a CSU video production team are working with a group of national organizations concerned about federal cuts to research funding, and stressing the importance of the United States continuing to invest in research and higher education.

A new video urging Congress to “Close the Innovation Deficit” was spearheaded by the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities working with 12 other organizations representing science, higher education and business. 

The CSU team that created the video includes artist Karina Mullen, a CSU alumna, who used sketches to illustrate the concept of an innovation deficit.

Serious and engaging

“The idea of an innovation deficit can be a tough one to explain, but it’s truly important, so we had to figure out a creative way to tackle it,” said Tom Milligan, vice president of CSU's Division of External Relations. “Having an artist with Karina’s ability to be serious and engaging in the same stroke really helps explain the idea of why it’s so important that we keep investing in the people and places where our country’s innovation is happening.”

The innovation deficit is the gap between actual and needed federal investments in research and higher education. This gap has been widening in the U.S. at a time when other countries are dramatically boosting research funding to develop the next great technological and medical breakthroughs.

According to the National Science Board, the U.S. share of global R&D declined from 37 percent to 30 percent since 2001. During the same period, the economies of East and Southeast Asia and South Asia – including China, India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan – saw an increase in their combined share from 25 percent to 34 percent of the global total.

Message to Congress

The national rollout of the video produced at CSU coincides with President Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposal and the appropriations season starting on Capitol Hill. The effort urges Congress to “Close the Innovation Deficit”with strong federal investments in research and higher education.

The video explains, through fast–moving hand-drawn images and text the direct link between basic research, economic growth, improved medical treatments, and national security; the risk that recent cuts to research pose to the United States’ role as the global innovation leader; and the significant benefits that renewed investments in research would bring the country.

In addition to AAU and APLU, the organizations behind the “Close the Innovation Deficit” video are the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), American Council on Education (ACE), American Heart Association (AHA), Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF), Council on Competitiveness (CoC), Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF), Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), Task Force on American Innovation (TFAI), The Science Coalition (TSC), and United for Medical Research (UMR).

Close the Innovation Deficit also features an array of charts that detail the impact that U.S. cuts and foreign investments are having on the nation’s role as global innovation leader.

Take a look at the social media conversation in this Storify post.

Behind the scenes

Take a look behind the scenes at the making of this video.

Behind the scenes

(4 images)

The producer and writer share the script and ideas with artist Karina Mullen.

An artist's table in the spotlight in CSU's TV studio for the 'Innovation Deficit' video.

Tools of the trade: a collection of markers and a pad of paper to create the 'Innovation Deficit' video.

Individual cutout pieces can move from place to place across the screen as the 'Innovation Deficit' video comes together.