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America COMPETES Act Reauthorized - Now the Hard Part -- America Winning
Published: January 14th, 2011 by Innovation Daily


America COMPETES Act Reauthorized … Now the Hard Part -- America Winning

(Innovation Daily -- Brian Darmody: 1/14/11) The race is not to the swift, but chance and circumstance happens to all, including countries. But it helps at least to be in the competition.

Fortunately the United States is again in the race, with December's last-minute passage of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010. America COMPETES is the country's three-year blueprint for increasing research, science and innovation. The Act calls for a 13 percent boost in funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) by 2013, with similar growth for other science agencies.

The bill includes a new regional innovation program, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education support, and new commercialization programs. Importantly, for the first time ever, the federal government has developed a program to support university research parks through a modest program of building loan guarantees.

Ironically, the U.S. was the country with the world's first research park, started at Stanford University in 1951. Since that time, other countries have copied our model, using national investments to create huge research parks that dwarf anything in the U.S. Many U.S. corporations have moved advanced research and development to these overseas parks.

Now we have some tools to help stem the tide.

This bill sparked some legislative contretemps, unlike an earlier version of America COMPETES that passed without major debate. But commentators as diverse as Tom Friedman and George Will have pushed for the U.S. to increase its science and technology investment.

George Will notes that Congressional conservatives can demonstrate skill by 'defending research spending that sustains collaboration among complex institutions – corporations, research entities and research universities'—precisely the role research parks and incubators play.

The bill adopted an initiative in the Association of University Research Parks (AURP) policy paper Power of Innovation by encouraging the inclusion of entrepreneurship as part of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education activities (http://www.aurp.net/). Programs that help students 'make' jobs, not just 'take' jobs, through start-up firm creation is one way we can innovate ourselves out of our economic doldrums.

The bill also addresses ways to improve university technology commercialization.

According to the Council on Competitiveness only 1 percent of university research expenditures are towards technology commercialization. By creating communities of innovation, and spurring more start-up firms, the country can reclaim its legacy as the world's center of innovation.

None of this will be possible, however, unless Congress takes the next step and appropriates the funding that was authorized. This will not be easy in the current budgetary climate. But other countries using ideas spawned in the U.S.—such as research parks, technology incubators, angel and venture financing models, and university technology commercialization programs—funded through national investments are now outcompeting us.

The Chinese may be marching through snow-covered streets, on their way to a football game while doing calculus, but the U.S. genius for innovation and entrepreneurship remains strong and swift.

Let's finish the race and make sure the America COMPETES Act has the necessary funding to succeed.

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