5 people sitting at a table
Uchinanchu Talk Story Conference speakers from left, Peter Gruss, David Lassner, Kenneth Kaneshiro, Glenn Lee and Governor David Ige. (Photo credit: East-West Center)

The critical importance of cutting-edge science and technology research in the island communities of Hawaiʻi and Okinawa was the focus of a panel discussion on March 26 at the East-West Center. University of Hawaiʻi President David Lassner and Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology President Peter Gruss were among the Uchinanchu Talk Story Conference speakers.

Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology President Peter Gruss (Photo credit: East-West Center)
University of Hawaiʻi President David Lassner (Photo credit: East-West Center)

Lassner cited San Diego as a city with similarities to Honolulu that has transformed its economy from being tourism-dependent to being an innovation hub, and that the key to the change has been “collaboration between the government, the private sector and a great research university.” Lassner said that most UH campuses have been exceeding their goal of increasing STEM degrees by 5 percent. “We used to talk about luring great companies here, now we talk more about growing them here.”

Conference keynote speaker Gruss said that with the growth of knowledge and information complexity in the world accelerating at an exponential rate, scientific research and education are vital for communities to ensure future economic opportunity. Science, technology engineering and math (STEM) knowledge is also the key, he noted, to addressing what he called global “mega-challenges,” including food, water and energy supplies; climate change; urbanization and healthcare.

Lassner and Gruss later met to explore research partnership possibilities between the two institutions.

Other panelists included Governor David Ige, prominent local biologist Kenneth Kaneshiro and Waialua High School robotics teacher Glenn Lee.

More about the Uchinanchu Talk Story Conference

The Uchinanchu Talk Story Conference series strives to broaden understanding of issues of common interest to Okinawans and all peoples of the world. This panel was presented by the World Uchinanchu Business Network in partnership with the Okinawan Institute of Science and Technology and the East-West Center.

For more on the conference, go to the East-West Center’s website.

From an East-West Center news release