As the world's largest R&D cluster, Silicon Valley brings untold economic benefits to the United States. The valley is also a prime example of how R&D in specific industries tends to stay tightly concentrated in a single region. Public support for R&D can help improve the odds that the next Silicon Valley is located in the United States.
Science and R&D
Going Local: Connecting the National Labs to their Regions for Innovation and Growth
Since their inception in the 1940s, the Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories have been in the vanguard of America’s global research and development leadership. However, the national innovation system has changed in the past 70 years. Today, much technology development and application occurs in the context of synergistic regional clusters of firms, trade associations, educational institutions, private labs, and regional economic development organizations. Unfortunately, legacy operating procedures limit the DOE labs’ ability to engage fully with the regional economies in which they are located. This lack of consistent engagement with regional technology clusters has likely limited the labs’ overall contributions to U.S. economic growth.
The United States is Slipping in Triadic Patents
Triadic patents, are patents filed jointly with the United States Patent and Trade Office, the European Patent Office, and the Japanese Patent Office, represent inventions with potentially global economic impact. A serious decline in U.S. triadic patents is the latest warning sign of diminished American innovation in advanced industries.
Debunking the Myth of a STEM Surplus
The Census bureau recently reported that only 26 percent of STEM graduates go into STEM fields. Rather than expressing a surplus of STEM talent, this statistic reflects an overly broad definition of STEM majors, a narrow definition of STEM occupations, and demand for STEM skills in all sectors of the economy. High wages and low unemployment rates show for STEM careers show that the STEM surplus is actually a STEM shortage.
Government R&D and Manufacturing Competitiveness
For the United States to regain its lost manufacturing prowess, it must dramatically increase government investment in research, development and technology transfer. The private sector cannot do this alone, as businesses have been shown to underinvest in new technologies, while foreign governments have invested significantly in their own manufacturing sectors. A focus on industrially relevant applied research can pay major dividends for the U.S. economy and help us compete in the increasingly globally race for innovation advantage.