Former NSF Director to Speak at UMass Amherst

AMHERST, Mass. - Erich Bloch, a distinguished fellow at the Council on Competitiveness and a former director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), will speak on the rapidly changing ways that innovative ideas enter the global market on Thurs. May 7 at 4:30 p.m. in Memorial Hall at the University of Massachusetts.

The Council on Competitiveness is a non-profit, private organization that seeks to improve the country’s position in the global marketplace. The event is free and open to the public.

Bloch’s talk will focus on the current competitive environment, the root causes of the changes, and the outlook for the U.S. innovation system. Bloch says the U.S. has forged a strong worldwide position by adapting well to the global economy, and adjusting to the increased importance of science and technology.

According to Bloch, other factors that are paramount in shaping the nation’s competitiveness agenda are: the country’s business and policy climate, the impact of developing nations, and a skilled workforce in the U.S. itself. The ways that creative ideas are transformed into marketable products have undergone fundamental changes, he says. These changes in particular affect the country’s universities and its research enterprise. All these developments affect, he says, and are affected by, government policies. Actions taken by the federal government will be of major importance to the research-and-development community, he says.

Bloch currently serves as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at George Mason University in Virginia. He was director of the NSF from 1984-90. Before joining NSF, Bloch worked for IBM Corp., which he joined as an electrical engineer, rising through the ranks to become a corporate vice president. Bloch received his education in electrical engineering at the Federal Polytechnic Institute of Zurich, Switzerland, then later earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Buffalo in 1952.

He has received a slate of awards, including the National Medal of Technology for his work on the IBM System/360. He has received numerous honorary degrees, including an honorary doctor of science from UMass in 1985. He is a member of many prestigious organizations, and sits on the Council and Executive Committee of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, as well as the technical advisory boards for Ford, AMP Inc., and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. He chairs the board of Quality Education for Minorities.