Yale University President Richard Levin and keynote speaker Bill Gates addressed audience members at a conference on the future of the British economy in London, England on Monday.
The conference, which was organized by the British Chancellor of the Exchequor — the British equivalent of the U.S. Treasury Secretary — was a high level meeting of leading British CEOs and government ministers, Levin said. Levin spoke about the role universities play in stimulating economic growth through science — an area he studied when he was an economics professor.
Levin said he was honored to participate in the conference and said it contributed to Yale’s international reputation.
“It’s useful to be visible with people like this because you never know what opportunities it could present,” Levin said.
In his speech, Levin explained that the U.S. economy has remained the world’s largest economy for the past half century in part because of university-supported scientific research. He said the United States’ economy has outperformed that of other nations because of its ability to convert advances in science into new products, processes and services.
“America leads the world by the widest margin in those industries in which innovation is based on relatively recent scientific advance, such as pharmaceuticals, microprocessors and software,” Levin said in his speech.
To foster scientific innovation, Levin challenged governments to lead the “long-term, unpredictable work of basic science.” Government-funded research should be undertaken by universities rather than government laboratories, Levin said, allowing scientists to use the most advanced methods to produce results.
Levin said in his speech that Britain, like the United States, is capable of becoming more involved in “knowledge-based industries.”
“[Britain’s] scientific productivity is among the highest of any nation in the world, and its best universities remain strong enough to compete globally,” Levin said in his speech.
Levin outlined steps he said will strengthen the relationship between scientific advancement and the British economy, such as increasing the scale of public investment in science research and increasing salaries of scholars and scientists.
Economics major Justin Burton ’05 said Levin’s plan made economic sense.
“The expansion of technology is one of the great contributions to general economic expansion in countries in terms of welfare and living conditions,” Burton said.
Burton said Levin’s presence at the conference was important in maintaining contact with other nations.
But Terence de Pentheny O’Kelly ’07, who hails from London, said it is more important for Levin to maintain connections with British universities than the British government.
De Pentheny O’Kelly said Levin’s invitation to speak at the conference proves Yale commands tremendous respect.
“It shows that Yale is a name in England which everyone knows and is a respectable name and continues to remain a respectable name today,” de Pentheny O’Kelly said.
Levin said his panel was the liveliest panel at the conference and his speech received a positive response. He said he particularly enjoyed meeting a group of entrepreneurs who he said could potentially come to the University to speak.