Congress

Create an Industry Research Alliance Challenge Grant program to match funding from consortia of businesses, businesses and universities, or businesses and national labs.

This program would resemble the current Technology Improvement Program (TIP) operated by NIST but would have an even greater focus on broad sectoral consortia and would allow large firms as well as small and mid-sized ones to participate. To be eligible for matching funding, firms would have to: form an industry-led research consortium of at least five firms; agree to develop a mid-term (three-to-ten year) technology roadmap that charts out generic science and technology needs that the firms share; and provide at least a dollar-for-dollar match of federal funds. This initiative would increase the share of federally funded university and laboratory research that is commercially relevant. In so doing it would better adjust the balance between curiosity-directed research and research more directly related to societal needs.

In order to reduce the Patent and Trademark Office’s backlog of pending patents, Congress should end patent fee diversion and gives the PTO regulatory authority to raise fees to meet budgetary needs.

To reduce the delays that currently plague the U.S. patent system, the PTO should be able to retain all patent fees and the PTO should have fee-setting authority to increase fees to meet budgetary needs. The current statute requiring USPTO to wait for a congressionally amended fee schedule is inflexible and does not allow USPTO to respond to increased costs.

To increase capital for startups, require that the federally supported Small Business Investment Companies (SBIC) program to invest at least 25 percent of its funds in early and small deals.

Since it was revised over a decade ago, SBIC has been an effective tool. However, if all the program does is provide lower cost capital to venture firms investing in late stage and large deals, it is not fulfilling its purpose of addressing market failure or limitation. Congress should require that SBIC devote some share of funds (perhaps not less than 25 percent) to smaller deals (perhaps less than $2 million).

Congress can tie states’ receipt of federal funding to maintenance of rainy-day funds of at least 10 percent.

Through their fiscal policies, states play an increasing role in U.S. macroeconomic stability. Yet most have underfunded rainy day accounts. As a result, when national economic downturns hit, states raise taxes and cut spending, exacerbating recessions and slowing recovery. The federal government can put policies in place to ensure that state and federal budget policies are more harmonized. One way to do this is to tie the states' receipt of federal funds to their willingness to maintain much larger rainy day funds.

Congress should appropriate $1 billion annually for a competitive matching grant fund to fund state-supported technology-based initiatives.

To boost U.S. international competitiveness and the number of good jobs, we need a more robust innovation policy. State governments can play a key role in this. In fact, all 50 states now have initiatives to promote technology-based economic development. However, because the benefits of innovation spill across state borders, states invest less in innovation-based economic development than is in the national interest.

Congress and the Administration should allocate $180 million per year for the creation and expansion of Math and Science High Schools.

More so than other high schools, math and science high schools produce benefits that local communities, and even states will not capture. Rather than be seen as solely the responsibility of local school districts, or even of states, they should be seen for what they are: a critical part of the nation’s scientific and technological infrastructure. Congress and the Administration should set a goal of approximately quadrupling enrollment at such high schools to around 250,000 students. This will require both the creation of a significant number of new high schools, and the expansion of others with room to grow. Moreover, these funds should go toward establishing MSHSs focused on underrepresented populations. States and/or local school districts would be required to match every dollar of federal support with two dollars of state and local funding. Industry funding would count toward the state and/or local school district match.

Congress should create a New Schools America fund to support states and cities to develop new kinds of schools.

The fund would help encourage state legislatures to create specialized schools that are autonomous from the management of traditional schools.

Congress should enact modifications to the R&D tax credit to allow companies to take a credit for donations of scientific equipment to high schools.

Institutional partnerships are a key to success of Math and Science High Schools (MSHSs). Whether it’s the donation of research equipment, the opening of their facilities to students and faculty, or mentoring of students, technology-based companies can play an important supportive role.

Congress should develop a national test that all college graduates take to measure skill competency.

While college students today have the opportunity to choose among an astounding array of majors, too few are equipped with the analytical skills that are necessary in virtually any job. Moreover, if students are only learning to recite a series of facts, grade point average is a weak indicator of whether or not a college graduate will make a good employee. A baseline standardized test that all college graduates must take, based, not on facts, but rather on skills like logic, reasoning, and basic writing and math, would help separate the schools and programs that do develop such skills from those that do not.

To assist workers displaced by offshoring, Congress should provide wage insurance by paying a portion of the difference between the worker’s old and new wages.

Displaced workers often can find new work only in jobs that, at least at the outset, pay lower wages. The federal government can help displaced workers—and encourage them to find new jobs—by providing wage insurance. Under this proposal, the government would pay a displaced worker who had worked for a previous employer for at least two years half the difference between the old and new wage, up to a maximum of, say, $10,000, for two years after the start of a new job. These benefits would be available in addition to unemployment insurance and Trade Adjustment benefits.