I'm an organic chemist working in an engineering department on organic electronics. I'm in the trenches you might say.
I appreciate your optimism. It's not about what we can discover but who is going to pay for it. Funding for scientific research has basically been flat for years. Big company research is nearly a thing of the past, the management is thinking on a quarterly time scale and discoveries takes years to develop if at all. Funding agencies require results typically within a three year time scale. As a result, scientists are focusing on little, incremental, projects that are not game changing but will generate papers.
Add to that the push to graduate more and more STEM Ph.D.s with a flat job market.
When people at the top say we need more STEM students, what they are saying is that they don't want to pay the high cost associated with hiring someone with an advanced degree. More students means more job seekers willing to work for peanuts after investing a substantial portion of their lives educating themselves.
Here are a few links you might peruse: