Technology innovation the focus of chamber event

Even as political and economic development leaders celebrated the region’s accomplishments at Pittsburgh Innovates on Friday, questions loomed over the future given the severe cuts in research and development funding outlined in President Donald J. Trump’s budget.

“The federal government may not continue to do its part,” U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pittsburgh, said.

But he added that while the president proposes, Congress disposes. “We’re under no obligation to adhere to the budget,” Doyle said.

The event, hosted by the U.S. Chamber Technology Engagement Center and Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce at the Energy Innovation Center, highlighted the role of data-driven innovation in modernizing businesses and promoting economic growth.

Tim Day, senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber’s Technology Engagement Center, known as C-TEC, pointed out that technology is bipartisan. Day moderated a wide-ranging panel discussion that touched on specific companies and sectors.

The panelists included Phillip Yu, director of technology and science initiatives, PPG; Raj Rajkumar, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University who has led many of its efforts in autonomous vehicle technology; Rasu Shrestha, chief innovation officer at UPMC; Jim Charron, vice president, CAS Application Development at Covestro LLC; and Catherine Mott, founder and CEO, BlueTree Capital Group.

Yu said that emphasizing STEM, short for science, technology, engineering and math, education to younger students is important, so is teaching “softer skills,” such as how to communicate more effectively and how to interact in a global economy, in order for the region to develop a pipeline to bring innovation into Pittsburgh.

Charron, asked specifically about where Covestro is focused, said it is looking at mobility and ways to bring innovation to material sciences. Making autonomous vehicles reality requires advanced materials, Charron pointed out.

“You’re wide open in terms of how to design it,” he said. “How will it be used? What will it look like?”