San Diego is on the rise as an innovation economy and a hub of new technologies and breakthrough research, yet, in spite of that, we are likely missing out on a huge amount of potential right in our own backyard. According to a new study published in December by a group of top economists associated with the Equality of Opportunity Project, "Lost Einsteins" are people-specifically women, minorities and individuals from low-income families-who "would have had high-impact inventions had they become inventors."
The study used data from patent, tax and school records to track more than one million inventors. Their findings are striking. Researchers found that test scores in early childhood are not good indicators of who will become an inventor because socioeconomic factors prevent countless kids who could go on to create high-impact inventions from doing so. The study also notes that while the gender gap is closing and more women are becoming inventors, at the current rate, it will take another 118 years to achieve gender parity.
What would happen if these children-the "lost Einsteins" in our school systems-were able to reach their full potential? According to the study, "If women, minorities, and children from low-income families were to invent at the same rate as white men from high-income (top 20%) families, the rate of innovation in America would quadruple."
Think about that for a minute. The potential to quadruple the rate of innovation in our community lies in San Diego's students.
How do we harness this untapped talent and put these students on a trajectory that will lead to the discoveries and inventions of the future? This research identified a key factor in increasing a child's chance of becoming an innovator: exposure to innovation. Children who grow up in communities known for innovation are much more likely to become inventors. Gender representation is also an important factor, with girls influenced more by the presence of female inventors and boys influenced more by male inventors.
I encourage you to take a look at either the executive summary or the full paper from the Equality of Opportunity Project, which contains some compelling charts and statistics. Clearly, we need to connect students from all walks of life to the power of science and to the innovation happening right here in San Diego. If we do, we just may inspire a new generation of Einsteins.
Steve Snyder, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer
Corporate and Foundation Partners
The Fleet Science Center is pleased to recognize the following members of its Fleet Partners Program:
Kinder Morgan Foundation
Union Bank Foundation
Join us on Saturday, June 2, 2018, for the Fleet's annual fundraiser, Busting the Myths of Wine.
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The header image,The Origins of Inventors: Patent Rates by Childhood Commuting Zones, is from the paper "Who Becomes an Inventor in America? The Importance of Exposure to Innovation", published by The Equality of Opportunity Project.