TI urges U.S. lawmakers to support innovation
The U.S. has led the world in economic growth since World War II because of science and technology innovation. But in recent years, American investment in innovation has not kept pace. Without strategic investments in technological research and education, the U.S. semiconductor industry and other industries will fall behind.
So TI – through our association with the Semiconductor Industry Association, the Business Roundtable, American Electronics Association and some informal coalitions – is aggressively working with other high-tech companies, traditional manufacturers, universities and professional societies to advocate for innovation policies.
We are collectively seeking action in three key areas: boosting the government's financial support of basic research; enacting tax policies friendly to private sector research and development; and increasing the pipeline of workers proficient in advanced math, science and engineering.
"These three pillars of innovation are the central focus of numerous studies, including the President's American Competitiveness Initiative and the Democratic Innovation agenda," said Paula Collins, TI's vice president, Government Relations. "They go right to three questions: Where will new ideas come from? Who will execute them? Where will they be executed?"
Specifically, our group is calling for:
- Doubling the basic research budgets of the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Energy's Office of Science and the Department of Defense.
This money goes directly to universities and laboratories working on the frontiers of knowledge, developing products and applications that will pay off in 10 to 30 years. For instance, such basic science was the source of innovations from the World Wide Web to MRIs, and even played a role in the development of the semiconductor industry.
- Making permanent a tax credit for companies engaged in research and development. Currently, the federal R&D tax credit is temporary, and lawmakers must renew it yearly. This creates uncertainty at companies that want to conduct R&D in the U.S.
- Welcoming highly educated foreign professionals to the U.S. through revised visa and green card policies while increasing U.S. student achievement in math and science. The U.S. is not producing enough American engineers, scientists and mathematicians to meet hiring needs. Until the country can reverse that trend – something that absolutely must be done – America must be able to invite the best minds from around the world to join its companies, especially those foreign nationals with advanced degrees from U.S. universities.
In 2007, our advocacy group had some wins and some disappointments. We helped secure passage of the America Competes Act, which authorized funding over three years to double basic science research budgets, invest in energy technologies, and strengthen math and science education.
Unfortunately, authorizing funds is not the same as writing a check for them. At the end of the year, Congress appropriated far less money to America Competes than originally requested in the President's budget, and less than what the House and Senate passed in their appropriations bills. The program fell victim to a budget showdown between the Congress and administration that trimmed hundreds of millions of dollars from these and many other programs.
The outcome disappointed researchers, academics and, of course, TI. Access to talent and the R&D tax credit also remain unresolved. But Collins says she's "cautiously optimistic" that in 2008, TI may make some progress on these issues.
"There's no opposition to these priorities," she said. "They enjoy broad bipartisan support. We are just having trouble getting them over the finish line. They are really quite modest proposals that would have a tremendous payback over the next several decades."