Dr Tapan Munroe, plenary speaker at the Ninth Triple Helix International Conference, a highly lauded economist, author and consultant, peacefully succumbed to pneumonia that was a complication of Parkinson’s disease, surrounded by family in Davis of California, on April 1 2014. He was 78. He was a man of quiet, gentle honor and dignity, extremely bright and a pleasure to know.
The sad news came too soon after we met Tapan in June 2013 when my husband and I visited him at his home in Davis. When we arrived at the ‘assisted living residence’ dining room, Tapan appeared with his wife, a smiling and fine-dressed lady, to say welcome. I still clearly remember the first surprise he gave to me: what a kind Indian gentleman with an extremely modest attitude, full of kindness. They had specially reserved food for lunch and settled us in a small VIP room with Jazz music. Less than ten minutes later I started to enjoy the free talk, and decided to find a way to work with him; after half an hour we knew each other.
After lunch, the friendly couple invited us to have a cup of tea in their apartment, small but very cozy, with a small backyard garden. The artworks on the walls attracted me, an amateur painter. Almost all of them were painted by him. We had such a good time there. We talked more about art, especially some oil paintings on the walls. A few of small artworks were very impressive.
In addition to discussing the possibility of publishing a book with his key viewpoints about Silicon Valley in Chinese, we made an agreement to work together for the International Triple Helix Institute (ITHI).
While I was preparing the book editing and publishing, unfortunately sad news came. In a while, I felt something invaluable was lost forever, a good friend and colleague! All the time, since he passed away, I want to thank him for the unforgettable meeting and also for the must-publish book without his appreciation. This article aims at commemorating Tapan Munroe and his distinguished contribution.
A respectful of others, gracious, and self-disciplined man
Born in Calcutta of India (18 February 1936), Tapan attended the University of Allahabad, majoring in chemistry and physics. He met his wife on a visit to the US in his early twenties, and returned in 1960 where he worked as a scientist for Xerox and then General Electric in New York. He later earned a Master’s degree in economics at the University of New Hampshire, Durham, and a PhD at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he was a Colorado Fellow and a member of the Phi Kappa Phi and Omicron Delta Epsilon honor societies. Additionally he was a graduate of the University of Chicago Executive Training Program, a Visiting Scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University. and a Deutsche Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD) fellow at the University of Augsburg in West Germany.
Tapan and Astrid lived in Moraga, CA, for thirty-two years. They enjoyed a vibrant social life as well as gardening and playing tennis. His artistic talent was fostered by his mother. She taught him how to paint when he was a young boy. He continued to paint throughout his life resulting in many excellent landscape paintings.
He was a longtime member at Lafayette Orinda Presbyterian Church in Lafayette. He enjoyed people immensely and befriended them easily. He had a passion for interesting conversation and exploring new ideas. He served as an elder at the Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church, a community he grew to know and love. After he passed away, obituaries and memorial articles were published by the institutions which he worked for, such as India West, posted on 8 April 2014 and updated on 18 June 2014; Contra Costa Times, 3 April and 16 April 2014; University of the Pacific, 24 April 2014; Catholic Business Journal, 29 April 2014; American Bazaar, 10 April 2014; etc. The understanding of Tapan’s work and life are based on these articles.
A hardworking and well-known economist
Tapan was a Professor of economics, chair economics department, University Pacific, Stockton, California (1970-1980). During two sabbatical years, he was a visiting scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and later a fellow at the University of Augsburg in West Germany. He worked for the University of California at Berkeley as an Adjunct Professor for several years. He was a director of the California State University Institute in Long Beach. He served as a lifetime member of the Board of Advisors of the Center for Pacific Rim Studies at the University of San Francisco (1998-1999); and a Member of the University of California President’s Board on Science and Innovation. He left Pacific in 1981 to join PG&E, eventually becoming their chief economist in San Francisco, till 1998.
An excellent column author
Tapan Munroe’s expertise includes innovation economics, energy economics, regional economics, and high-tech industry analysis. His writings focused on the economics of innovation and economies of innovation regions, such as Silicon Valley and High Tech San Diego.
Tapan authored a twice-monthly business and economics column in the Contra Costa Times for more than twenty years. His last column for the newspaper ran in October 2011. Since 1988 he had been writing a column for several Bay Area News Group papers including, the San Francisco Examiner, the Oakland Tribune, the Journal of Corporate Renewal and other bay region newspapers. He was a commentator on both regional and national radio and TV news programs.
Contribution to Research
Tapan was a sought-after speaker, and wrote or co-wrote a number of books about various economic aspects, including Planet in Conflict: Balance Energy Needs, Economic Growth, and Environment Quality (2013); Innovation: Key to America’s Prosperity and Job Growth (2012); Closing America’s Job Gap (2011); Ecology of Innovation (2008); and What Makes Silicon Valley Tick? (2009) and Dot-Com to Dot-Bomb (2004). Tapan’s books are clear and precise, easy to read. He was always optimistic and passionate to show the way to solve problems.
What makes Silicon Valley Tick?
by Tapan Munroe and Mark Westwind, 2009
This volume builds on the earlier volume, Silicon Valley: Ecology of Innovation (2007)1. Silicon Valley was viewed as an ‘innovation ecosystem’, locally self-sustaining and globally open, with the capacity to reinvent itself and find new ways of creating wealth, interpreting changes in the economic and technological cycle.
Tapan proposed seven key elements of the Silicon Valley ecosystem: world-class research university, entrepreneurs, investment capital, talented and well-educated workforce, social and professional networks, favorable business climate, high quality of life quotient; and came to the conclusion: the most important factor is multiple networks. Through his observation on Silicon Valley, he had twelve recommendations for other regions. Tapan ‘is to the East Bay what Thomas L Friedman is to the East Coast’ (Douglas W Borchert, in Praise of this Book)2.
Innovation: Key to America’s Prosperity and Job Growth
by Tapan Munroe, 2012
The book gave many positive ideas, eg innovation and recession go hand in hand, don’t take innovation for granted, innovation culture needs to be re-energized, gap in job skills is getting worse in America’s economy, as well as stimulus won’t solve the structural unemployment problem.
Realizing government’s role in innovation, he argues that innovation needs government and grease from the White House; universities have offered collaborations to aid (regional) innovation; investment in education, research and development is the base of innovation; and innovation is the best solution to the current crisis.
The book brilliantly captures the essence of America’s twenty-first century economic challenge, dealing with critical issues to the future of the US (Richard C Atkinson, President Emeritus, University of California) “Tapan Munroe opens the door to a vision of the innovation landscape and then takes the reader on a challenging journey” (Theodore J Saenger, Retired President and CEO, Pacific Bell, Vice Chairman, Pacific Telesis).
It is rare to find an economist who can translate his field of expertise for a lay readership. Tapan Munroe was one of those rare economists. He had been among the foremost analysts of the East Bay economy, a distinct sub-region of the Bay Area economy, for years, and that’s how he first came to my attention. As Business Editor of the Contra Costa Times, I was always in the lookout for good economists to help us understand this thriving region, which was often overshadowed by Silicon Valley and San Francisco. Tapan helped us understand what was going on in our region, and our newspaper benefited from it. His columns brought an extra dimension to the newspaper, one that was often difficult for the reporters and editors to tackle since they are so caught up in the day-to-day coverage of a daily print product (Steve Trousdale).
Planet in Conflict: Balancing Energy Needs, Economic Growth, and Environmental Quality
by Raul A Deju and Tapan Munroe, 2013
The authors asked a question: how does one deal with supporting economic growth that requires uninterrupted supplies of energy while ensuring energy independence and environmental protection?
As nowadays the efficiency of a machine for manufacturing and transportation is indeed quite poor: in most instances it is between 10% and 30%, ‘we must think of the future. Economic growth requires energy growth. However, given that part of
our energy basket includes resources that we need to foster, through innovation, new approaches to energy efficiency, and the development of more cost effective renewable options, more effective recovery of fossil energy in the world plentiful’. They imply that energy independence can be achieved by increasing the usage efficiency, which needs technological innovation, rather than wars and robbery.
Many researchers recognize the natural resources shortage and the environment issue increasingly bothering the planet, however, Raul and Tapan further propose seven principles/ways to balance energy demand, economic growth, and environmental quality:
- abundant cost-effective energy
- depoliticize sustainability
- make gradual and continuous improvement to our economic
and environmental wellbeing
- provide leadership with clear and consistent policies that
protect the environment and promote social equity without
choking the economy
- foster technological innovation for both economic growth and
- change by moving from conflict to collaboration
- if conflict can be moved away: the planet will be a better place
‘The book is an excellent overview of the energy, environment, and water problems facing the US and the rest of the world, and the opportunities and challenges that we share as a planet. This is a must-read book for the twenty-first century’. by Roger W Werne, Deputy Director, Industrial Partnering Office, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, (Piii).
‘The authors argue that balanced development of all energy sources can lead to economic prosperity, if wise policies are devised and followed. This hopeful and positive book is an excellent summary of current information, energy trends, and a valuable source of policy suggestions. Anyone seeking an insightful; overview of energy alternatives and necessary environmental stewardship should read this book. By Andrew Amstutz.
Dot-Com to Dot-Bomb: Understanding the Dot-Com Boom, Bust and Resurgence
by Tapan Munroe, 2004
This book focuses on a summary of the Dot-com bubble, a nearly thirty month long boom, 1998-2001. His insightful analysis shows how many were seduced by the bright new world unfolding on the Web. It helps readers understand why the boom appeared and what we can learn from the bust.
One would die, but his character is
memorable and his contribution
will be forever!
May 6, 2015
1 See Josep M Pique, Ecology of Innovation and Triple Helix: Tribute to Tapan Munroe in next issue.
2 Thomas Loren Friedman (born 20 July 1953) is an American journalist, columnist and author. He writes a twice-weekly column for The New York Times and has written extensively on foreign affairs including global trade, the Middle East, globalization, and environmental issues. He has won the Pulitzer Prize three times.