Technological innovation has driven impressive job creation and economic growth, and with it has come increased productivity, low inflation and an unprecedented economic expansion. These trends have been nurtured by industry and government actions over the past 30 years, including the deregulation of industries, globalization of markets, a strong venture capital market, and a renewed entrepreneurial spirit. Innovation and growth, supported by increasing government and industry investment in R&D, have helped to sustain the United States as the most competitive nation in the world for many years. America is currently experiencing a revolution in energy, information, bio- and nano-technology that requires increased commitment to investments in education, science and technology in order to maintain the gains realized in the past and maintain American competitiveness in the future.
There was strong bipartisan support in Congress for the authorizing legislation, America COMPETES, which builds on the National Academies' recommendations in the Gathering Storm report. We support the programs authorized in America COMPETES. Furthermore, Congress has established a plan to double, over 10 years, investment in innovation-enabling research at three Federal agencies: the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy's Office of Science (DOE SC), and the Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). In FY 2008, $11.42 billion total was budgeted for NSF, DOE SC, and NIST, an overall funding increase of $764 million, or 7.2 percent, above the 2007 research budget of $10.66 billion, although the final allocation was much less. To achieve a doubling in 10 years, overall annual increases will need to average roughly seven percent. IRI strongly supports such an investment stream.
A Message to the Presidential and Congressional Candidates
While the private sector has primary responsibility for implementing technological innovation, the economic climate created by government's fiscal, monetary and regulatory policies greatly influences the pace of commercialization. In the past two decades, a new, global innovation focus has emerged in the United States based on productive industry, university and government collaborations. This system begins with government support of basic research in universities and ends with industry commercializing new products, processes and services on a global basis. A marketplace desire for high-valued products is the engine that has propelled this remarkable growth. Recognizing the critical importance of appropriate government economic and technology policies to maintain this economic growth and competitiveness, IRI recommends that the President and Congress act together to:
1. Continue the critical role of government in funding fundamental research in universities aimed at advancing knowledge in science and engineering. While education must be our universities' top priority, both high-quality, ground-breaking academic research and well-trained graduates are key elements of our innovation infrastructure. Thus, we urge you to:
* Provide reliable and increasing funding for fundamental university research and the infrastructure needed to maintain global leadership in key science and engineering areas for our industry's future workforce.
* Promote strong collaboration between universities and industry to enhance the commercialization of new technologies.
* Support education programs in grades K-12 that promote science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
* Encourage industry-university consortia on discovery science and engineering.
* Update our immigration policies to facilitate foreign science and engineering students attending U. …