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Spurring Technological Innovation in Legacy Sectors

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Innovations in “legacy sectors” of the economy – fossil fuels, manufacturing, buildings, transport, agriculture, the inter-state electric grid, health services delivery, higher education, and many others – are essential if we are to address major societal challenges like climate change, inequality, unemployment, competitiveness, and cybersecurity. Innovation in information technology, biotech, nanotech, and other frontier sectors won’t solve these long-standing problems in the absence of policy measures to overcome the obstacles that block innovation in legacy sectors. Yet we tend to focus innovation on frontiers, and are not good at bringing it to our legacy sectors. Charles Weiss and William B. Bonvillian offer ways to change directions on this with a new policy framework for delivering innovation in these areas. Join us for the discussion; much is at stake.

Dr. Charles Weiss is a Fellow of the AAAS and a Visiting Scholar with its Center for Science Diplomacy. He was the first Science and Technology Advisor to the World Bank, serving in this capacity from 1971-1985, and served as Distinguished Professor of Science, Technology and International Affairs (STIA) at the Walsh School of Foreign Service, and Director of STIA (1997-2006) at Georgetown University until his retirement in 2014. Dr. Weiss has an AB in chemistry and physics, summa cum laude, and a PhD in chemical physics and biochemistry, both from Harvard University.

William B. Bonvillian is the Director of MIT’s Washington Office where he works to support MIT’s strong and historic relations with federal R&D agencies and its role in national science policy. Previously he served as a senior advisor in the U.S. Senate, working on science and technology policy, and has taught in this area at Georgetown, Johns Hopkins SAIS, and MIT. He is on the National Academy of Sciences standing committee for its Innovation Policy Forum and has served on the Academies Board on Science Education and four other Academy committees. He received the IEEE Distinguished Public Service Award in 2007 was elected a Fellow by the AAAS in 2011 for “socially distinguished” efforts “on behalf of the advancement of science and its applications.” He holds a BA from Columbia University, an MAR in religion from Yale Divinity School, and a JD from Columbia Law School. 

This talk is part of the monthly Colloquium Series offered by AAAS to provide a forum to explore timely topics relevant to science and society. If you would like to know more about the Series, or if you would like to propose a speaker, please contact

Monday, November 21st, 2016
4:00 – 5:00 p.m.
AAAS Headquarters