New Democrat Coalition Unveils COMPETES Act Reauthorization Agenda

 

Washington, D.C. – As hearings on the first reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act since 2010 commenced this week, the New Democrat Coalition unveiled its comprehensive agenda for COMPETES. The Coalition’s leaders on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee – the committee of jurisdiction for COMPETES – spearheaded the effort, convening for several months in informal talks and briefings to build support for the tech-friendly agenda.

First passed in 2007, the America COMPETES Act provides support to cutting-edge technology research and development throughout the country by bolstering public-private partnerships with leading research universities and providing assistance to innovators throughout the country. The New Democrats were instrumental in the passage of the 2007 bill, which was inspired by a report of the Alliance for Science & Technology Research in America, “Riding the Rising Tide: A 21st Century Strategy for U.S. Competitiveness and Prosperity.” In the report, public and private sector leaders called for federal funding to strengthen the United States’ R&D enterprise and develop a world-class workforce for the innovation economy.

The New Democrat Coalition challenged its colleagues on both sides of the aisle to put real investment behind their commitments to research and development. According to an analysis of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, not only does research itself create jobs – 70% of spending that companies use to claim the research and development tax credit goes directly to salaries – but new technologies drive economic growth and help to spread job creation throughout the economy. The New Democrats cited the direct benefits to economic development in their push for a strong COMPETES reauthorization.

“Federal support for innovation propelled America’s economic expansion over the past half century, but that progress is now in serious jeopardy because of the harmful cuts of sequestration. The federal government must continue to invest in education, research, and innovation, which create jobs and spur the economy, so that businesses of today and entrepreneurs of tomorrow can compete and succeed in the global marketplace,” said New Democrat Coalition Vice-Chair and COMPETES Act leader Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11th).

“If America doesn’t raise its game through investments in education and innovation, we are going to get our backsides handed to us These principles for growth through innovation, research, and economic development offer a foundation for America’s continued competitiveness in a 21st Century economy. I'm proud to be working with the New Democrat Coalition to fight for practical, common sense solutions to grow our economy,” said New Democrat Coalition COMPETES Act leader Rep. Derek Kilmer (WA-06).

“The reauthorization of COMPETES is a tremendous opportunity to provide manufacturers across the country with the support they need to create new jobs and hire new workers. In my district, a particular concern I’ve heard again and again is the need to boost workforce training and STEM education so our young people have the skills they need to succeed in high-tech manufacturing. As a member of the New Democrat Coalition and the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, I’m committed to working with my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans alike, to work for the inclusion of commonsense principles including measures that help match skillsets for our unemployed and underemployed workforce with employers and that provide our educators with the support they need to help our kids excel in the STEM fields,” said New Democrat Coalition COMPETES Act leader Rep. Elizabeth Esty (CT-05).

“If our country is going to be competitive into the next century we must do a better job of supporting scientific research and innovation, while providing a long-term budget vision that allows institutions the chance to plan for the future. Further, we must recommit ourselves to encouraging STEM education programs that prepare the next generation for the global economy they will face. COMPETES offers the opportunity to make our innovation ecosystem more effective by reducing the administrative burden on researchers and supporting innovative, collaborative approaches to STEM in our universities,” said New Democrat Coalition COMPETES Act leader Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52).

“America COMPETES supports the kind of innovation that creates jobs, helping to prepare the next generation for the jobs of the future, creating regional innovation hubs to aid our economic recovery, and helping small and medium-sized manufacturers create and retain jobs and increase productivity through innovation.  In the Sacramento region, for example, America COMPETES funded a partnership between Sacramento Regional Technology Alliance and U.C. Davis that helps local farmers and ranchers grow their businesses. It is essential to maintaining America’s continued competitiveness and prosperity that we reauthorize the America COMPETES Act and continue our smart investment in innovation and jobs,” said New Democrat Coalition COMPETES Act leader Rep. Ami Bera (CA-07).

New Democrat Coalition Principles for America COMPETES Reauthorization

The strength of America’s economic machine is underpinned by the link between innovation, economic development and job creation. Since its founding, the New Democrat Coalition has led the way for smart policies that foster innovation through public-private partnerships, new technologies and cutting-edge research and development. As Congress considers the first reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act since 2010, the Coalition offers the following principles to ensure that we, as leaders tasked with maintaining America’s continued competitiveness in a 21st Century economy, don’t just talk about innovation – we invest in it.

  • Supporting Basic Research - Basic scientific research serves as a foundation of innovation. To ensure our nation maintains and strengthens its competitiveness, funding for basic research across all scientific disciplines should be a priority. As the New Dems have stated in their Principles for Innovation and Competiveness, “Research conducted at U.S. universities primes the industrial pipeline, while training future generations of scientists and entrepreneurs.”
  • Stabilizing Funding for Research and Development - Consistent funding streams for research and development provide our nation’s innovators with the stability necessary to take basic research into commercial development. Reliable funding ensures that innovators are able to secure long-term investors, and entice and leverage corporate investment into public-private partnerships.  Further, greater funding consistency will help create a pipeline from basic research toward development. Intermittent and unreliable funding, as well as an increasing administrative burden, not only disrupts the research process, but also slows commercialization efforts.
  • Supporting Paths to Success for Startups and Small Business - As the New Democrats have addressed in their Principles for Innovation and Competiveness, small businesses have been and continue to be a pathway for American entrepreneurship and innovative growth. In competitive global marketplace we must provide small businesses and startups with more than a path towards viability, but we must ensure that they can be competitive in international markets. With the fiscal constraints facing the US, we need to identify innovative ways to create a climate in which startups can thrive that do not rely solely upon new sources of government funding. We must structure steps that encourage further development rather than putting in place steep, uphill pathways to receive funding and mentorship. We need to streamline research and innovation and not create roadblocks for startups and small businesses.
  • Expanding Public and Private Partnerships to Encourage Innovation - In our current fiscal climate, we need to look for ways to creatively use federal resources and promote private-public partnerships to spur innovation. As an example, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Education (ARPA-ED) draws on non-governmental organizations and the private sector to identify technological breakthroughs in teaching and learning. With limited and at times, inconsistent funding, many projects lose traction or become outdated.

Continuing to encourage public-private partnerships with research universities and supporting programs—like the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR)—is critical to fostering growth at a community level. Focusing on expanding partnerships that can direct commercialization and fixes to systemic problems should be a prominent aspect in the COMPETES reauthorization.

  • Encouraging Technology Transfer and Streamlining Innovation - While basic research is the foundation for innovation, we must increase our focus on research leading to product development, and how to disseminate research findings. As a country, job creation, whether through research or production is necessary to increase global competitiveness; research for the sake of research must transition to research geared towards economic and societal betterment.
  • Overcoming the “Valleys of Death”: Proof of Concept and Commercialization - In the innovation process, entrepreneurs face difficulties proving the merit of their ideas, and bringing their ideas to the marketplace. Many research initiatives must first obtain initial seed money and business interest to determine whether a project can be viably translated into a prototype that merits further research and development funding. Establishing phases of project development encourages mentoring partnerships with the research and business worlds, allowing promising technologies to successfully make it to market.
  • Funding for Regional Innovation Programs - While America COMPETES addresses initiatives on a national level, regional innovation programs have successfully demonstrated the ability to stimulate growth across our nation, including rural and impoverished areas. Programs such as the i6 Challenge and the Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge have helped regional industries forge an entrepreneurial ecosystem, creating jobs on a local and regional level.
  • Supporting STEM Education and Workforce Development Building a strong 21st century workforce is contingent upon the quality of our STEM programs at all levels of our education system. Investing in programs from pre-K initiatives designed to introduce our youngest students to exciting STEM fields to strengthening essential technical training programs at the community level will help align our education system with current and future workforce needs. 

A successful COMPETES reauthorization must be focused on increasing access for women and diversity in STEM fields, including computer science and engineering programs, so that students can visualize what a career in the STEM field would be.

  • Increasing Prize Competition- America COMPETES provided government agencies the authority to conduct incentivized prize competitions as a way to discover innovative and scalable solutions that advance their core missions and build partnerships with the private sector. Reauthorization of these programs should ensure that government sponsored prize competitions are effectively utilized to spur innovation in the private, philanthropic and public sectors while solving some of world’s most challenging issues. 

The New Democrat Coalition is dedicated to maintaining America’s standing as the world’s strongest, most successful nation. Founded in 1997, the New Dems believe firmly in the power of American ingenuity and innovation, and are focused on finding ways to foster and harness this creativity to grow our economy, create new American jobs, and ensure a safer and more secure future for our country. 

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