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Policy

Commerce Department Report Urges Increased Investments To Boost U.S. Innovation, Economic Competiveness

by Britt E. Erickson
January 16, 2012 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 90, ISSUE 3

The innovative capacity and economic competitiveness of the U.S. are declining, concludes a Jan. 6 report by the Department of Commerce. To reverse the trend, the report urges Congress to boost investments in three areas: basic R&D; education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); and infrastructure such as a modern electrical grid and broadband Internet access.

“Federal funding for basic research, education, and infrastructure has simply failed to keep pace with economic growth,” Commerce Secretary John Bryson said during an event to release the report at the Center for American Progress, a think tank. “The innovative performance of the U.S. has severely slipped during the past decade,” he emphasized.

The report, mandated by the America Competes Reauthorization Act of 2010, also makes the case for increased support for manufacturing. In addition, it calls for a simplified, enhanced, and extended corporate R&D tax credit and for immigration reform to enable foreign students to remain in the U.S. after they graduate.

“We are losing our edge, particularly in innovation,” says Robert D. Atkinson, president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a nonprofit group that designs innovation policies and examines how technology can boost economic growth. “I hope this is a first step in the process of Washington waking up to the urgent innovation challenge and giving it the same attention as the budget deficit,” he adds.

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