Pittsburgh's two major research universities are key to continuing the region's transformation from a manufacturing stronghold to a hotbed for startup companies in technology, the leaders of University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University said on Tuesday.
But cuts in government funding are threatening to hamper economic development work of those institutions, CMU President Jared Cohon and Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg told about 200 people gathered for a meeting of the Pittsburgh Technology Council.
"You should all be concerned," Cohon said of what he called the massive disinvestment in Pitt by the commonwealth. "We all need to do something about that."
Pitt and CMU are partners in a dozen joint research centers focused in a number of technology areas, from computational biology to entertainment, said Cohon, who on Monday discussed college affordability with President Obama and 11 American university leaders.
Gov. Tom Corbett earlier this year proposed a 50 percent cut in state funding for universities. The final cut approved by the State System of Higher Education was 19 percent. Nordenberg said state funding previously accounted for about a third of Pitt's annual budget. It's now 8 percent.
There used to be "this sense that we all owed something to the next generation," Nordenberg said of public funding for higher education. "That feeling seems to have disappeared."
Budget cuts make it more difficult for Pitt to maintain and grow its research infrastructure, facilities and people, said Robert Hill, vice chancellor for public affairs. And if the university has trouble supporting research, it's less likely to receive the grants from the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health that often produce medical discoveries and new technology, Hill said. …