On the Shoulders of Giants: Turning Innovation Into A Renewable Resource

Remarks by Chairman, President and CEO

Marillyn A. Hewson

 

World Affairs Council – Washington, DC

Global Education Gala

Washington, DC

March 13, 2014


Thank you very much, Tony [Culley-Foster], for that kind introduction. And thank you to the World Affairs Council for this opportunity. It’s an honor to share this stage with the many distinguished leaders being honored tonight, and to be part of an event supporting such noble goals and objectives.

Today is a bit of a milestone day in history. It was this date 45 years ago that the Apollo 9 capsule splashed down in the cold, choppy waters of the Atlantic Ocean, just north of Puerto Rico. After enduring the grueling re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, the capsule – nicknamed “gumdrop” for its trademark shape – deployed its three orange parachutes and floated safely onto the waves, where it was picked up by the USS Guadalcanal.

Apollo 9 was the first test of the Lunar Module – or “LEM” as it was known. During their 10-day mission, astronauts James McDivitt, Russell Schweickart and David Scott put the LEM through its paces, ensuring it would operate perfectly when it landed on the surface of the Moon. The mission was flawless. It was an incredible step forward in innovation, and a stepping stone toward a moment that, four months later, united the world in awe and wonder at what mankind can achieve.

The space program revolutionized the way we communicate, the way we learn and the way we think about our fragile environment and the Earth itself. If you used a GPS system to find your way here tonight, or if you checked the weather report to see if you’d need a jacket, or if you stopped at an ATM today to pick up extra cash, you have space technology to thank. Satellites make all of those everyday conveniences possible. And really, you can thank McDivitt, Schweickart and Scott – and the thousands of pioneering Apollo astronauts, scientists and engineers – who were there when it all began. They sparked the innovations that literally changed the course of history.

Innovation has been at the heart of human achievement for centuries. And today, it continues to be the catalyst that drives progress and discovery. Those achievements didn’t happen by accident. It took vision, purpose, dedication and investment. We’re surrounded by so much innovation every day, it’s easy to take it for granted. When was the last time you stopped to think about how amazing it is that your cell phone can read you turn-by-turn directions?

The reality is, innovation is always harder than it looks. And tonight I’d like to ask you to think about what it will take for all of us – as a global community – to continue to push the envelope,  continue to set audacious goals, continue to chase the horizon of the next great breakthrough. Because the fact is, innovation is a scarce resource. If we don’t fuel it, nurture it and harvest it, we risk losing it. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I believe we have an opportunity to turn innovation into a renewable resource, tapping into a bottomless well of new ideas, new breakthroughs and new talent, and doing so at a global level. So how do we achieve that goal? I’d like to suggest three actions.

The first is the reason we’re all here tonight: education.

All innovation starts with education – and I can think of no more important place to focus. It’s crucial to our understanding of our world and of each other. We all know the importance of science, technology, engineering and math – or STEM – education. Engineers and technologists are the lifeblood of innovation. You probably also know that we’re dangerously low on next-generation STEM talent. In fact, recent data shows we’re facing a potential shortfall of one million STEM professionals in the next decade. That’s a challenge that must be addressed if we want to make innovation a renewable resource.

Fortunately, we have plenty of opportunities to advance education around the world. There are currently 6.8 billion mobile devices worldwide, and nearly 40 percent of the world’s population is connected to the Internet. That’s opened up unprecedented opportunities for global learning. Students in Qatar can take Quantum Mechanics at Stanford and entrepreneurs in Montana can learn management strategies from professors in Melbourne. Students at every level are being connected to global classrooms – from Tanzania to Texas – teaching them about new cultures, new ways of thinking and new technologies.

And of course, we’re fortunate to have the contributions of the exceptional individuals we’re recognizing at tonight’s gala. They’re leading the landmark educational initiatives, international partnerships and advances in journalism that are transforming learning. Thank you for making a difference for the next generation.

The next action required to turn innovation into a renewable resource is strengthening global cooperation.

I know that each of us here tonight understand better than anyone that the more we collaborate globally, the faster our innovation engine accelerates. When we break down barriers among nations, sharing expertise, resources, technology and discoveries, that’s when innovation thrives. I think Bruno Lanvin, Executive Director of INSEAD, one of the world’s leading international business schools, put it best. He said, “Most innovation does not happen in the lab; it happens in the cafeteria. You have someone studying electrical engineering, sitting across the table from someone doing ancient Greek philosophy, and you start a conversation. This is the real root of innovation.”

That sharing of ideas across boundaries is crucial to innovation. I know this from experience. I’ve seen first-hand the tremendous value international partnerships bring to our programs at Lockheed Martin. Revolutionary technologies like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter were made possible by global collaboration. That’s why I’m proud to serve on President Obama’s Export Council, where leaders from across many industries are exploring new ways to spark innovation on a global scale. We’re working to shape policies that encourage international collaboration and open the door for technology advancement – and economic growth – for the U.S. and all of our international partners. Now is the time to support the kinds of collaboration we need – from policies to partnerships – to make innovation a renewable resource.

The third action is making the right investments.

As we saw with the Apollo program, innovation doesn’t just happen. Great achievements – whether it’s in technology, the arts or any field of endeavor – start with an idea that gets nurtured and supported. Smart investments can mean the difference between world-changing innovations and good ideas that simply die on the vine.

Just last month, we saw an example of smart investment in action as the White House announced the launch of two new Manufacturing Innovation Institutes. One will be based in Detroit and will focus on manufacturing lightweight and modern metals. The other is a Chicago-based consortium that will concentrate on digital manufacturing and design technologies. It’s because of our strong public-private partnership that these Institutes will become regional hubs that are part “teaching factories,” part “technology incubators” and part “proving grounds” for new products and processes.

On a global scale, I know many of you are familiar with the Clinton Global Initiative. President Clinton’s vision in establishing the initiative in 2005 was to engage global leaders in addressing the world’s most pressing challenges and implementing innovative solutions. CGI brings together some of the world’s most powerful people, each of whom makes a “commitment to action” on a significant global challenge. To date, more than twenty-five hundred of these commitments-to-action have been made, and already the lives of more than 430 million people in over 180 countries have been positively impacted.

That’s inspiring, and that’s the difference smart investments in innovation can make. Taking a chance on those breakthrough ideas can pay huge dividends strengthening economies, opening up new possibilities and making our world a better place. In today’s tough fiscal environment, it’s important to remember that putting resources toward innovation isn’t about spending, it’s about investing. And if we want to make innovation a renewable resource, that smart, global investment must continue.

I believe that – working together – we can make innovation a renewable resource. We have all of the pieces, and looking around this room, we have the talent, the dedication and the leadership to make it happen. Albert Einstein said, “If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants.” We’re all standing on the shoulders of great leaders of the past – amazing men and women like the Apollo astronauts who splashed down 45 years ago today.

It’s time to pay it forward. Let us, together, support the great thinkers of the future. Let us stand as a global community shaping a more enlightened world. Let us be the giant shoulders on which the next generation of innovators stand.

Thank you again to the World Affairs Council and to tonight’s honorees for leading the way. And to all of you here tonight, thank you for the work you’re doing to make our future together so very bright. Thank you.

MAH-World-Affairs-Council

Marillyn A. Hewson, Chairman, President and CEO of Lockheed Martin, delivers the Keynote Address at the 2014 World Affairs Council Global Education Gala on March 13, 2014.


2014 World Affairs Honors Keynote Address - Marillyn Hewson