"In the three years since the ‘Innovation Imperative’ statement was released, its priorities have been endorsed by businesses and research institutions in every state, and gained bipartisan support in our nation's capital,” said Norman R. Augustine, Co-Chair, Restoring the Foundation and former CEO and Chairman of Lockheed Martin. “Two of the seven recommendations have been adopted. However, the world is not standing still and competition is increasing dramatically. We look forward to working with Congress, the White House, and research organizations across America to take additional actions to ensure that our country remains the global leader in innovation."
“Innovation is a proven driver of productivity and economic growth, job creation and rising living standards,” said Deborah Wince-Smith, Council on Competitiveness President and CEO. “While the United States has long stood apart from the rest of the world in its record of sustained innovation, our leadership is being challenged by global competitors more and more each day. That is why we need to accelerate progress on the Innovation Imperative and double down on efforts to optimize our nation for this new, unfolding, innovation reality.”
The organizations coordinating the initiative are: American Academy of Arts and Sciences; American Association for the Advancement of Science; Association of American Universities; Association of Public and Land-grant Universities; Battelle; Coalition for National Science Funding; Coalition for National Security Research; Council on Competitiveness; Energy Sciences Coalition; Task Force on American Innovation; The Science Coalition; United for Medical Research (UMR).
The Innovation Imperative progress report details the status of seven key science, research, and innovation policy priorities and assigns them one of four designations:
- Progress Made – More Needed (renewing the federal commitment to scientific discovery; streamlining or eliminating costly and inefficient research and innovation-related regulations, and stimulating further improvements in advancing manufacturing);
- Increasing Concern (visa policies);
- In Progress (improving student achievement in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM));
- Enacted (making permanent the Research and Development Tax Credit and reaffirming the merit-based peer review process).
Details on each priority follows:
Progress Made -- More Needed
The Innovation Imperative progress report hails important progress toward renewing the federal commitment to scientific discovery. Congress took critical strides to reinvest in scientific research as part of FY2018 appropriations. The final funding package included significant increases for some federal research agencies, including a $3 billion increase for the NIH and a 16 percent increase for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
Congress has an opportunity in FY19 and beyond to provide similar increases for basic research. Unfortunately, the Administration has proposed significant cuts to several federal science programs and agencies in its FY19 budget, which Congress must fend off and instead provide increased support.
Significant steps were also taken in recent years to streamline or eliminate costly and inefficient research and innovation-related regulations through the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, and the National Defense Authorization Act. Perhaps the most significant of these provisions is a requirement that OMB establish by December 2017 a Research Policy Board charged with coordinating, streamlining, and reducing research related regulations. OMB, which was also directed to conduct an ongoing review of regulations to improve efficiency and optimize the federal investment in research, has yet to stand up the Research Policy Board.
Progress in stimulating further improvements in advanced manufacturing was achieved through a National Science and Technology Council Committee on Technology panel request for public input on the development of a National Strategic Plan for Advanced Manufacturing. This is a promising step by the Administration to develop a long-term plan to improve advanced manufacturing research and development.
Congress continues to support the important NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) at $140 million and DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) at $305 million, despite the Administration’s proposals to eliminate the former and reduce funding for the latter by $230 million. MEP provides regional support throughout the country to small- and medium-sized manufacturers to ensure domestic manufacturers are capable of meeting national needs.
In FY18, Congress funded for the first time the Manufacturing Engineering Education Program (MEEP) as part funding for manufacturing initiatives under the National Defense Education Program and the Defense-Wide Manufacturing Science and Technology Program. The FY17 National Defense Authorization Act sanctioned MEEP, allowing universities, nonprofit institutions, and industry to develop manufacturing-focused curriculum, workshops, trainings, and job placement activities.
However, the progress report notes that the Administration continues to propose eliminating funding for six institutes at DOE and NIST established under the congressionally approved Manufacturing USA initiative that were designed to move early-stage research into capabilities ready for adoption by U.S. manufacturers. In FY18, the NIST Institute was cut 50 percent to $10 million; the five DOE Institutes continued to receive $70 million; the eight DOD Institutes received $133.8 million; and the DOC institute received $5 million for coordination, as authorized. The progress report calls for Congress to develop a plan for sustaining existing Institutes and for creating new Institutes as mandated in the original authorization of the program.
The Innovation Imperative leaders noted the U.S. must make clear through visa policies and corresponding rhetoric that it welcomes the best and brightest students, scientists, and engineers who are vital to future innovation, American global leadership, and national security. Continuing decisions to slow down the visa process and create burdensome paperwork requirements are significant impediments for American efforts to attract top talent from around the world. For the first time in 12 years, the number of international students coming to study and conduct research in the U.S. declined. America must reshape its policies to attract and retain the top students and researchers in an increasingly competitive global market. This includes increasing the number of green cards to allow high-skilled talent from U.S. universities to remain in the U.S.
The Innovation Imperative leaders acknowledged relatively modest progress toward the goal of improving student achievement in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM). In 2017, President Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum for the Secretary of Education on the importance STEM education and expanding it and computer science education. And although Congress approved legislation several years ago to expand STEM teacher recruitment and training programs and to strengthen standards and accountability in K-12 education, increased funding for such programs is needed over the next decade.
The organizers of the Innovation Imperative effort reported that two of their seven goals were achieved: 2015 legislation to strengthen and make permanent the Research and Development Tax Credit, which provides steady encouragement to the private sector, including start-ups and small businesses, to invest in innovation; and the reaffirmation of the merit-based peer review process (as part of the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act), which is the global gold standard for ensuring scientific excellence and integrity and the most effective use of taxpayer dollars for research.
The Innovation Imperative effort began in June 2015 and was spearheaded by 10 American business leaders:
- Samuel R. Allen, Chairman & CEO, John Deere
- Norman R. Augustine, Co-Chair, Restoring the Foundation
- Wes Bush, Chairman, President & CEO, Northrop Grumman
- Kenneth C. Frazier, Chairman & CEO, Merck & Co., Inc.
- Marillyn A. Hewson, Chairman, President, & CEO, Lockheed Martin Corporation
- Charles O. Holliday, Chairman, Royal Dutch Shell plc
- Joseph Jimenez, CEO, Novartis
- W. James McNerney, Jr., then-Chairman of the Board & CEO, The Boeing Company
- Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft
- Jay Timmons, President and CEO, National Association of Manufacturers