Innovation is the underpinning of the U.S. economy and for many economies around the globe. It works best when there is a healthy innovation ecosystem – a ‘perfect storm’ of free inquiry, great education, property rights, the rule of law and strong capital markets,” said Wes Bush, chairman, CEO and president, Northrop Grumman Corporation, who was one of nine industry leaders to sign the Innovation Imperative in 2015.
Deborah Wince-Smith, president & CEO of the Council on Competitiveness, which is one of the groups organizing the Innovation Imperative initiative, noted, “Innovation is the engine driving America’s economic growth, whether it’s a game-changing, disruptive application of artificial intelligence or a tinkerer with a 3D printer in her garage. The progress on the Innovation Imperative should be applauded and accelerated. Now is not the time to tap the brakes.”
The progress report released today comes as Congress and the White House prepare to finalize Fiscal Year 2017 funding legislation and continue to debate and shape the Fiscal Year 2018 budget and appropriations process.
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:
The organizers of the Innovation Imperative effort reported that two of their seven goals were achieved: 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 leaders noted that the U.S. must reshape its visa policies to attract and retain the best and brightest students and researchers in an increasingly competitive global market, but the country appears to be taking significant steps backwards on this front. Until increased STEM education and training efforts for U.S. students grow the pool of Americans who can fill the demand for high tech jobs, U.S. colleges, universities, and companies need a robust high-skilled visa program and additional green cards to access the top talent graduating from our higher education institutions. Efforts to limit or ban visas, including the temporary six-month suspension of expedited processing for H-1B highly-skilled visas, impede U.S. efforts to attract top talent from around the world.
Progress Made -- More Needed
Significant steps were taken 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 do much more to improve efficiency and optimize the federal investment in research. In January, the new administration issued an Executive Order, which could further alleviate regulatory burdens.
Progress in stimulating further improvements in advanced manufacturing was also achieved through Congress establishing Manufacturing USA, a national network of Institutes each with a unique technological concentration. Congress also created a program that will allow universities, nonprofit institutions, and industry to develop manufacturing-focused curriculum, workshops, trainings, and job placement activities. While both the Institutes and the education programs were authorized, but need long-term funding.
The Innovation Imperative organizers acknowledged some progress toward renewing the federal commitment to scientific discovery. Congress provided a significant increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health, which began to rebuild the nation’s investment in biomedical research after years of flat funding, and authorized even greater investments through the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act. However, the ongoing threat of sequestration coupled with the administration’s budget blueprint, which calls for drastic, unprecedented cuts to science and research, threaten to undo that progress and dramatically weaken U.S. competitiveness.
They also acknowledged similarly modest progress toward the goal of improving student achievement in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) with enactment of legislation to expand STEM teacher recruitment and training programs and to strengthen standards and accountability in K-12 education. They noted, however, that funding for these programs lags far behind what is needed to make U.S. students competitive globally.
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