Building America: Economic Transformation Through STEM Innovation

BUILDING AMERICA is a new series of programs focused on domestic policy issues that impact the growth and long-term success of our nation.Rocket Launch

Building America: Economic Transformation Through STEM Innovation is a semester-long seminar which delves into the profound impact science and technology has on economic development. Sessions will primarily alternate between discussions and readings, followed by a specific real world case study. Exploring the evolution of industries, innovation ecosystems, and governance structures, students will consider case studies from the United States, India, and Singapore, including the role of land grant university systems. The seminar will continuously engage with real world content (news, company updates, public and private investor websites) to understand how science and technology have impacted the US and global economy.  

Participants will get the opportunity to hear from guest speakers, visit a land grant university, engage with tech transfer teams, and pitch a business or policy to experts. Led by Skye Lawrence, this program provides a structured framework for exploring economic transformation through science and technology, with hands-on activities and case studies to enhance real world learning.  


  • Understand the pivotal role of science and technology in shaping modern industries. 
  • Analyze innovation ecosystems and their governance mechanisms. 
  • Understand real world companies and the policies that have shaped and enabled their success. 
  • Examine the historical significance and contemporary relevance of land grant university systems. 
  • Evaluate case studies from the United States, India, and Singapore to understand similarities and differences. 
  • Engage in project-based activities: Pitching a company or large-scale nation-wide policy initiative akin to a land grant university system.  


Session 1: Introduction to Economic Transformation 
Wednesday, September 4, 5-7pm 

  • Overview of objectives and structure 
  • Historical context of economic transformation through science and technology 
  • Key concepts: innovation, industrialization, innovation ecosystems, public benefits, core institutions 
  • Discussion: Common products that have been the recipients of R&D funds in your everyday life 

Session 2: Role of Science and Technology in the Development of Industry 
Wednesday, September 18, 6-7pm 

  • Evolution of industries toward knowledge-based economies 
  • Role of risk and public good analysis in early-stage R&D funding 
  • Technological drivers of economic growth 
  • Case studies: Silicon Valley, Bangalore's tech industry 

Daytrip to University of Maryland College Park  
Saturday, September 28 

  • Visit a land grant university to interact with a tech transfer team  

Session 3: Innovation Ecosystems and Governance 
Wednesday, October 2, 5-7pm 

  • Components of innovation ecosystems: academia, industry, and government 
  • Models of governance for fostering innovation 
  • Case study and discussion: US and Singapore Tech Transfer Offices (TTO's) - a crucial role as a link between academia and industry 
  • Students will be assigned groups and flesh out ideas for a company or a nation-wide science and tech policy to pitch at the final session. Creativity encouraged. 

Session 4: Defense and its Role in the Promotion of R&D within Industry 
Wednesday, October 23, 5-7pm 

  • Historical overview of defense-related R&D initiatives 
  • Impact of defense spending on technological innovation 
  • Case studies: DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) in the US, DRDO (Defense Research and Development Organization) in India 

Session 5: Case Study Analysis - United States and India 
Wednesday, November 6, 5-7pm 

  • In-depth examination of the US and Indian land grant university systems 
  • Success stories and challenges faced in economic transformation 
  • Group discussion: lessons learned and implications for policy 

Session 6: The Role of Entrepreneurship in Policy and Companies 
Friday, November 22, 1-4pm 

  • Half-Day Pitch Session: Students should be prepared to give 5–10-minute pitches. A team of 3+ professionals (likely tech founders) will offer feedback on strengths and weaknesses, market or policy viability, and impact of the approach. 
  • Gain real-world experience of how to pitch and sell ideas and fundraise 

Prospective Applicants

This program is open to rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors at Gettysburg College. Students of all majors with an interest in innovation, economy, business, and policy are encouraged to apply. Applicants are expected to be available for all sessions, trips, and activities during the program. 

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