From Scientific American:
The 2012 presidential election will be won by the candidate who can convince voters that he has the vision to lift the nation out of the economic doldrums. The economy is the right topic, but the discussion neglects the true driver of the country's prosperity: scientific and technological enterprise. Half of the U.S. economic growth since World War II has come from advances in science and technology. To neglect that power—and the government's role in priming the pump—would be foolish. The auto industry is a case in point. President Barack Obama makes much out of having rescued Detroit's carmakers from bankruptcy. This achievement won't hold up, however, unless the thousands of small auto-parts manufacturers down the supply chain stay globally competitive. One way to help them would be to foster initiatives like the National Digital Engineering and Manufacturing Consortium, which is providing independent manufacturers potent information technology at Purdue University and the Ohio Supercomputer Center. By harnessing this science and technology strength, we can generate a competitive advantage for small businesses.
President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney ought to be talking about how to use programs like this to bring about the kind of success that Germany has achieved. The German government encourages a close partnership between technical universities and industrial manufacturers; it supports centers where scientists and engineers pursue fundamental research in close proximity to industrial colleagues investigating more applied technologies. German battery makers, for instance, work with technical universities on nanotechnology, while textile makers contribute to research in carbon fibers for composite fabrics. Could there be a grander vision for harnessing U.S. research talent in this way? On this, both candidates have been silent.