Robust investment in R&D is critical to ensuring a nation’s leadership in science, technology, and innovation. The United States can no longer take its leadership position in any of these categories for granted. While many in Congress understandably do not want to impoverish the next generation of Americans by saddling them with unsustainable debt loads, if they try to address the debt by slashing productive investments in the future, they will end up impoverishing future generations of Americans just the same (and likely worse so). Therefore, Congress and the Administration should commit to restoring the R&D funds imperiled by the current sequestration and to more broadly maintain stable and robust funding for federal R&D, keeping the United States on a path to consistently meet the stated target of investing 3 percent of U.S. GDP in R&D annually.
Science and R&D
So You Want Green Energy, New Medicines and Flying Cars? You Need the Federal Government
Federal agencies and the nation's universities perform 70 percent of all basic R&D in the United States. Additionally, corporate spending on basic and applied research as a share of total corporate R&D actually fell by 3.6 percent from 1991 to 2008. What money the private sector is investing actually goes to the development of ideas they get from the knowledge mountain. Moreover, every dollar of federal investment induces the private sector to invest an additional 27 cents on R&D.
So wake up and stop complaining about innovation stagnation and focus on a real solution: dramatically increasing federal support for scientific and engineering research.
Cut to Invest: Support the Designation of 20 "U.S. Manufacturing Universities"
Congress should establish an initiative to designate 20 institutions of higher education as “U.S. Manufacturing Universities” as part of a needed push to strengthen the position of the United States in the increasingly innovation-driven global economy. In 1862, Congress passed the Morrill Act, which established land-grant colleges to promote learning in “agriculture and the mechanic arts.” These colleges played a key role in enabling the United States to later take the lead in the mechanization of agriculture and the industrialization of the economy. Today, the challenge is even greater as America competes against a wide array of nations seeking to win the race for global innovation advantage, especially in advanced manufacturing. A new cadre of federally-designated “Manufacturing Universities” that revamp their engineering programs with particular emphasis on work that is relevant to manufacturing firms while providing engineering students with real-world work experience should be part of the solution.