On Jan. 6, 2012, the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) issued a new report highlighting key policy priorities to sustain and promote American innovation and economic competitiveness. The report, The Competitiveness and Innovative Capacity of the United States, examines the historic role of federal investments in research, education and infrastructure in driving the nation's economic competitiveness, business expansion and job creation, and argues for continued strong support for those three areas as well as manufacturing.
The report was mandated as part of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010. It addresses a diverse range of topics and policy options, including tax policy; the general business climate in the U.S.; barriers to setting up new firms; trade policy, including export promotion; the effectiveness of Federal Research and Development policy; intellectual property regimes in the U.S. and abroad; the health of the manufacturing sector; and science and technology education.
The policy recommendations and observations in the COMPETES report include:
- For research and development: Recommending increased federal funding for basic research–universities and research centers, extension of the private-sector R&D tax credit, and improvements in the way basic research is transferred from the lab into commercial products. (See http://www.commerce.gov/americacompetes/out-innovate-federal-support-research-and-development)
- For education: Recommending government initiatives to make college more affordable, spurring classroom innovation at all levels and expanding the size and quality of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) teacher ranks and to encourage students and workers to pursue STEM education. (See http://www.commerce.gov/americacompetes/out-educate-educating-our-workforce)
- For the nation's infrastructure: Highlighting the importance of federal government investment in an expansive modern electrical grid that provides robust broadband Internet access in both urban and rural communities. (See http://www.commerce.gov/americacompetes/out-connect-infrastructure-21st-century)
- For manufacturing: Outlining a series of steps the Obama administration has taken to support American manufacturing, including rescuing the U.S. auto industry, the recent creation of the White House Office of Manufacturing Policy and formation of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP), as well as initiatives such as the Materials Genome Initiative and the National Digital Engineering and Manufacturing Consortium. (See http://www.commerce.gov/americacompetes/out-produce-revitalizing-manufacturing)
- For private-sector innovation: Recommending building a business climate that supports and encourages innovation in the private sector, including support for regional R&D clusters, promote exports and access to foreign markets, restructure corporate taxes and providing an effective intellectual property system. (See http://www.commerce.gov/americacompetes/out-empower-private-sector-engine-innovation)
A new DOC Web site devoted to the COMPETES report (at www.commerce.gov/americacompetes) provides the report itself, background materials and short video presentations by top DOC officials—including National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Director Patrick Gallagher—highlight key points of the report.