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Bill Gates on innovation investment and impact

Zika. Energy. Privacy and security. Cancer. Malaria. Climate change. Global inequality.

All these topics were addressed in detail in a wide-ranging conversation between Reuters Editor-in-chief Stephen Adler and Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, yesterday at a Reuters Newsmaker held in Washington, DC.

U.S. innovation was an emphasis of the discussion, particularly in research and development. In an op-ed for Reuters on Monday, Gates called for the United States to up its commitment and investment in research and development (R&D) spending, arguing it has essentially flatlined as compared to South Korea’s (up 90 percent since 2000) and China’s (doubled).

He writes:

“Investing in R&D isn’t about the government picking winners and losers. The markets will do that. It’s about doing what we know works: making limited and targeted investments to lay a foundation for America’s entrepreneurs.” – Bill Gates.

Doubling down on innovation, Gates explains, is what can usher in access to affordable energy to those who don’t have it, fight climate change, lead to new treatments for diseases and contain deadly epidemics.

Weighing in on recent privacy and security headlines in the U.S., Gates also said that no one is an “absolutist” on either side of the digital privacy debate, supporting Microsoft’s lawsuit against the U.S., while also commenting, “There probably are some cases where (the government) should be able to go in covertly and get information about a company’s email.”

And, amidst a contentious race to the United States election, Gates said he wouldn’t be publicly endorsing any presidential candidate, citing differences with candidates from both sides on free trade, but did vow to work with whoever is elected.

Gates also responded to a number of questions from the audience, and from Twitter. Here are a few video clips of his responses:

Future of energy use

Fighting global inequality

Women in computer science  

Common core

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Want more Newsmaker interviews? You can find past video interviews with world leaders on supranational issues at and follow ReutersLive for real-time updates.

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