July 22, 2010
Helping America COMPETE
The America COMPETES Act, originally passed in 2007 in response to the major challenges to U.S. economic competitiveness spelled out by the National Academies' seminal report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, is up for re-authorization. Brookings' Mark Muro has a great piece outlining the importance of the legislation to America's economic competitiveness and innovation edge at the New Republic.
The America COMPETES Act is up for reauthorization, and that's a good thing. Or at least, it's a good thing if Congress seizes the opportunity to both invest and innovate as it extends one of the nation's most critical vehicles for keeping the nation competitive.
The COMPETES Act authorized a two-fold increase in the R&D budgets of critical science and technology agencies, including DOE Office of Science, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). But, as Muro notes, the actual funding appropriations are not (yet) on track to meet that goal.
The re-authorization comes at a time of even greater challenges to U.S. competitiveness, with other nations implementing national innovation policies to build globally competitive industries in critical sectors of their economies. In contrast, the U.S. government has yet to implement such a policy, and is falling behind as a result.
An important report released recently by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) found that the United States is 6th out of 40 nations in innovation capacity and internal competitiveness, but was last out of 40 nations in its improvement on these metrics over the last ten years. ITIF's President, Dr. Rob Atkinson, recently authored a brief on how Congress should strengthen the America COMPETES Act.
One particular industry in which the United States finds itself behind its rivals is clean energy. A joint Breakthrough/ITIF report, "Rising Tigers, Sleeping Giant," has detailed America's decline in the global clean energy race. As Muro notes, COMPETES offers a key opportunity to strengthen clean tech competitiveness by, among other things, creating new regional energy innovation clusters to accelerate the development of a domestic clean tech industry.
Breakthrough, ITIF, and Brookings are sure to have much more to say about this critically important legislation in the weeks to come...stay tuned.