Congress should pass the Electronic Consumers Right to Know Act (S. 1029), also known as the e-KNOW Act.

Intelligent technology could revolutionize the way we distribute and consume energy. But to harness these benefits requires a key ingredient: consumer access to data, including historical usage and real time information on consumption and current prices, in machine-readable formats they can share with authorized third parties to facilitate energy control and choice. However, many states lag in requiring consumer access, and utilities won’t act unless pushed. These problems lead to a fragmented market that present a challenge to broad innovation and broad-based consumer empowerment, when in reality innovation would be much better served by a single, uniform market with clear national standards. To that end, the Electronic Consumers Right to Know Act (S. 1029), also called the e-KNOW Act and sponsored by Senators Mark Udall (D-CO) and Scott Brown (R-MA), ensures that consumers and their authorized third parties are able to access and employ this data to make informed choices about how they use energy.

The Administration should increase the royalty rate on drilling activities, and these revenues should be dedicated to a clean energy innovation trust fund.

Just a five percentage point increase in the offshore royalty rate could produce an additional $2 billion in revenues—and potentially much more—in the coming years. Current rates are below those in many other industrialized countries, and increasing royalty rates would enable the United States to harness the economic value of fossil fuel reserves for direct clean energy investment. The Administration should move forward with a royalty rate increase soon, while Congress should create a trust fund to ensure new revenues from drilling are dedicated to clean energy innovation.

The Administration should create a one-stop website portal for business registration in the United States.

The Administration should task the Federal CIO with redesigning and undertaking a strategic design review of the federal and state small business registration process, redesigning it to create an integrated business registration Website encompassing both federal and state requirements and contemplating the entire lifecycle of needs for small business start-ups, thus creating a one-stop shop for business registration in the United States. In addition to federal requirements, the portal would incorporate all states’ business registration requirements into an integrated one-stop system. The registrant would need only to visit a single Website to register his or her business both with the Federal government and the relevant state government. The redesigned business registration process would also contemplate the entire lifecycle of needs and concerns for the small businesses. For example, it would bring information forward to the registrant about whether there are loan programs the business is eligible for, such as relevant Small Business Administration (SBA) or Economic Development Agency (EDA) loans, or information about lines of credit from local commercial lenders.

Congress and Small Business Administrators should create a Young Entrepreneurial Fellowship Program.

The Young Entrepreneurial Fellowship program would be a modest Small Business Administration (SBA) program, with funding of $5 million per year, to support the living expenses of 25 young entrepreneurs for two years each. An outside panel of entrepreneurs would help SBA review proposals and business plans from applicants. The fellows would also receive mentoring and other technical assistance as they seek to build an ongoing business. If just one of the 25 fellows creates a successful enterprise, the program would likely pay for itself in job creation and increased tax revenue.

The Congressional Office of Science and Technology Policy should provide incentives for industry-hosted temporary jobs for undergraduates.

Providing more opportunities for college STEM students to work in industry, especially early in their college careers, will help encourage more students to stay in STEM. As a result, the White House should request through executive order that government agencies begin sitting some of their student fellowship/internships/co-ops/summer jobs in industry locations (e.g., an agency’s industry suppliers or collaborators), if not prohibited by law. At the same time, Congress should allow companies to take a tax deduction for corporate employee time spent mentoring student hires. The company could claim up to 35 percent of the aggregate student hire hours as donations of employee time, at the median prevailing wage of their salaried employees.

Congress needs to create a “NSF-Industry Ph.D. Fellows Program.”

Doctoral fellowships are key factors in producing more Ph.D. degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). But the number of NSF graduate research fellowships awarded per thousand college students graduating with degrees in science and engineering dropped from over seven in the early 1960s to just over two in 2005. Rather than simply expand funding for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship program (funded at $102 million), Congress should create a new NSF-industry Ph.D. fellows program where firms provide matching funds. To increase these linkages Congress should appropriate $21M/year for the establishment of an NSF-Industry Ph.D. Fellows Program, to support an additional 1,000 Ph.D. students in STEM. The new NSF-industry program would work by enabling industry to contribute $20,250 towards each fellowship, in whatever field(s) the company chooses. NSF would match industry funds dollar-for-dollar.

Congress and the NIH should target a significant share of increases in federal research funding to university programs that partner with industry.

Industry-university partnerships not only spur more commercialization and innovation, they also boost STEM education outcomes. But these partnerships are the exception rather than the rule. To change this, federal agencies should require industry co-funding of many academic research centers, including all the NSF Engineering Research Centers. In addition, Congress should allocate funding for a tripling of NSF’s Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) program, to $21 million dollars. NIH should examine the NSF model and propose an equivalent program to Congress.

Congress needs to spur inclusion of entrepreneurship opportunities for STEM students.

Federal agencies supporting university research in STEM should adopt a policy whereby any graduate or post-doctoral student on an assistantship, fellowship, or other form of federal support can petition for a no-cost extension of their assistantship, fellowship, or traineeship, which would allow them to take a “entrepreneurial leave” for one to two years to start a company, and be guaranteed their former student position on their return. Congress should also make the necessary changes to SBIR authorization to enable students on “entrepreneurial leave” to fund their startups using SBIR monies; individuals who are currently full-time graduate or post-doctoral students would be explicitly eligible for such awards, even if they are foreign nationals, as long as their business is located in the United States. In addition, Congress should work with the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that students who receive SBIR funding while on official “entrepreneurial leave” are still defined as full-time students, and not company employees, for visa purposes.

Congress should expand funding for NSF interdisciplinary higher education learning.

Approximately 75 percent of college students would prefer an interdisciplinary education, and such training is also needed for workforce skills. There are a number of steps that should be taken to expand interdisciplinary learning. Congress should expand the NSF IGERT Program by a factor of three, to $30 million in annual funding. Where allowed by law, federal agencies should redefine all federally-funded scholarships, fellowships, assistantships, and traineeships such that professors receiving students supported by such mechanisms must include some kind of interdisciplinary training experience for the student. Alternatively, OSTP can coordinate a multiagency effort to divorce student support from faculty research support. Faculty would apply for research grants as before, but when the grant arrives at the university, it arrives in two parts: a student support portion (tuition and stipend) that is awarded to a student and henceforth travels with the student; and a research support portion (professor salaries, equipment funds, materials, etc.) that stays with the professor. This approach frees students to pursue their own educational interests – which tend to be much more highly interdisciplinary than the narrow in-field research needs of the professor.

Congressional leaders should increase the development of online STEM learning tools.

Virtual schools, video games, and other software-based learning can play a key role in boosting STEM education. But more and better tools need to be developed. Congress should allocate $20 million to the National Science Foundation for the development of STEM-related learning tools and products that are intended to be disseminated jointly through the nations’ emerging network of virtual schools. Funds would be made available to consortia of virtual schools that apply in partnership with commercial developers of educational products. As an incentive, up to $5M in additional “dissemination” funding for marketing and distribution would be available if the product proves to achieve <g> scores greater than comparable classroom lecture, as measured by NSF’s STEM Test Kitchen.
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