National Institute of Standards and Technology

Congress should direct NSF to establish stronger university entrepreneurship metrics and use them to provide stronger incentives for universities to commercialize research.

Congress should direct the National Science Foundation, working in partnership with National Institute of Standards and Technology, to develop a metric by which universities report entrepreneurship and commercialization information annually. The reports should include data on faculty new business starts, spin-offs of new companies from universities, license agreements and patenting, and industrial funding of research. Congress should further direct all major federal research funding agencies to factor these performance metrics into their decisions to award research funds to a university or university researcher. Applicants from universities that successfully promote entrepreneurial spin-offs/start-ups or that receive more in industry research funding would be more likely to have their principal investigator grants funded.

Congress should create an “Innovation Voucher” program operated by NIST.

Almost a dozen countries—including Austria, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland, and Sweden—use innovation vouchers (ranging in value from $5,000 to $30,000) to spur R&D, new product development, and innovation activity in traded-sector SME firms by enabling them to “buy” expertise from universities, national laboratories, or public research institutes for assistance with preparatory studies, analysis of technology transfer, analysis of the innovation potential of a new technology, etc. The vouchers both spur innovation in SMEs and stimulate knowledge transfer from universities and research institutions to SMEs. In the United States, innovation vouchers could be introduced at either the federal or state level, but Congress should facilitate their introduction by authorizing $20 million to NIST to fund a pilot program operated by select states that agree to match the funding dollar for dollar. As a potential source of funds to keep this option revenue-neutral, one option would be to take 0.5 percent of the current allocation to national laboratories to fund the vouchers.

Congress should create a new traded sector analysis unit within the federal government.

There is no entity in the federal government tasked with performing competitiveness analysis. The statistical agencies see their job as accumulating facts; not analyzing them. To remedy this, Congress should task the National Institute of Standards and Technology with the creation of a new traded sector analysis unit which prioritizes interpretation and analysis over collection and aggregation. This new entity should have two core functions. The first would be to regularly assess important aspects of overall U.S. traded sector competitiveness (e.g., trends in FDI, growth of traded sector jobs and output, changes in global market share of U.S. traded sectors, etc.). The second would be to focus on select traded sectors that are critical to the United States’ economic future (sectors where the United States has some competitive edge and where value added and wages are higher than average) and develop strategic road maps (by coordinating with DoD, DoE, NSF, and industry leaders) of how the federal government can promote the competitiveness of these sectors.
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