Congress should direct the Department of Interior to raise fees on oil and gas drilling on public lands in exchange for opening some new lands for drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf.

Redirecting revenues from drilling to invest in the future of clean energy offers a bipartisan solution to expanding the nation's energy supply while also creating a long-term solution to global warming. These policy changes could create up to $1 billion in new revenue, which would be directed to an Energy Innovation Trust Fund to support the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

Congress should triple funding for clean energy research, development and demonstration to $15 billion annually.

The development of cheap, high performance clean energy technologies is essential to combatting climate change. However, the American energy innovation ecosystem is currently underfunded and heavily focuses on deployment incentives over research and development, demonstration, and manufacturing. Congress should triple appropriations for key energy innovation programs.

Congress should offer planning grants for regions that want to create alternative types of STEM high schools or universities.

In recent years, a number of new high schools and universities with unique approaches to STEM education have opened. These institutions champion an experiential learning model and all teaching is STEM- or technology-oriented and done on an interdisciplinary basis, with students required to complete internships with companies, helping them to solve real engineering and technical problems. Public policy should support states and regions as they try to develop alternative types of STEM-oriented high schools and universities because it’s very difficult to conceptualize new approaches; coordinate a wide range of regional and state actors across industry, academia (including faculty and students), community, and government; construct new facilities; etc. Therefore, Congress should allocate $10 million for the National Science Foundation, through the existing Transforming Institution Grants program, to offer planning grants for regions looking to create new kinds of STEM high schools or universities.

Congress should reallocate NSF monies to areas with stronger national economic impacts.

It’s time to clearly recognize that certain research programs the National Science Foundation supports are much more important to our country’s economic well-being and competitiveness than others, and explicitly take this into account when making budgetary allocation decisions. Therefore, Congress should direct, and the Administration should implement, a reallocation of NSF resources toward the kinds of science that has direct economic and industrial benefits for the United States. In particular, this means increasing NSF budgets for four key Directorates: 1) Math and physical sciences; 2) Engineering; 3) Computer and information sciences and engineering (CISE); and 4) Biological sciences, while permitting research budgets for the geosciences and social sciences to shrink. This is not a call to shrink basic science funding (indeed it should be increased), but it is a call to explicitly reorient it in such a way that best promotes U.S. national innovation-based economic competitiveness and the jobs and economic growth that stem from this.

Change the name of the National Science Foundation to the National Science and Engineering Foundation.

If Congress wants to take a step short of standing up a new National Engineering and Innovation Foundation, then at the very least Congress should change the name of the National Science Foundation to the National Science and Engineering Foundation. Doing so would make it clear to NSF leadership and the research community that NSF should give engineering more emphasis and visibility. And Congress should shift more of the new NSEF’s funding toward engineering, even if this has to mean cutting science funding.

Congress should create a National Engineering and Innovation Foundation alongside NSF.

Investments in science create new knowledge that is freely traded around the world, but it’s the application of that knowledge (e.g., engineering) that creates wealth through new products and processes. U.S. federal R&D dollars for basic science generate knowledge that is essentially a non-rival, non-appropriable public good that can be quickly picked up and leveraged by foreign competitors, explaining why many nations invest much less in basic research and more in applied. Unfortunately, the United States invests significantly more in scientific research than it does in engineering. Of the total federal research investments in science and engineering in 2008, approximately 1/7th was allocated to engineering development and 6/7th to the various scientific fields. It’s time to raise the profile of engineering within our national innovation system. While NSF supports phenomenal work, its central purpose is belied by its title. NSF’s primary mission is funding scientific research, its engineering support programs get shorter shrift. Therefore, Congress should create a National Engineering and Innovation Foundation as a separate entity operating alongside the National Science Foundation. The new National Engineering and Innovation Foundation would consolidate the current Engineering Directorate within NSF including the ERC and I/UCRC programs, the functional parts of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Defense’s Manufacturing Technology (ManTech) program, and the Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing office into a single entity with an engineering focus.

Congress should create a Deputy Director for Economic Growth and Innovation Position at NSF.

The National Science Foundation needs more resources devoted to assessing the agency’s impact on economic growth and innovation. Accordingly, NSF should create a new position for a Deputy Director of Economic Growth and Innovation. The position should be filled by an individual with professional competence in understanding the design of innovative systems, building rapid learning data systems, linking creative ideas from all disciplines, and organizing needed advisory committees. The Deputy Director should look to articulate policies that can accelerate recovery and sustain a GDP/per capita growth rate that is at least one percent above the pre-crash baseline.

Congress should allow government labs to take an equity stake in start-ups.

A significant barrier to government labs partnering with industry is that small businesses and start-ups often are not capable of working with the labs due to the cost of procuring lab expertise and access to facilities. Yet, in many cases, even a small amount of lab interaction with a small business or start-up could greatly impact a nascent company’s growth and could be the deciding factor between a start-up failing or not. Congress could ameliorate this issue by providing the labs with the ability to take an equity stake in a start-up that is interested in utilizing lab infrastructure to advance development of its proprietary technology. One option would be to allow federal labs to trade use of lab research infrastructure for a small equity stake in start-ups under the strictest of transparency. This would be the equivalent of providing advanced lab services in lieu of payment and, in return, the labs would receive royalties once start-ups advance into the market at very little, if any, risk to the taxpayers.

Congress should improve accounting rules for national laboratories overhead.

Congress could increase technology transfer out of U.S. federal laboratories by providing the laboratories additional overhead flexibility in two ways. First, Congress could remove the rigid accounting buckets from lab overhead and instead simply provide accounting rules for what the single tranche of overhead funds can be used for. Second, to increase support for technology transfer, Congress should take this reform a step forward by explicitly defining technology transfer to include early-stage technology maturation. In practice, this means the labs are capable of investing in lab overhead in early stage demonstrations that either removes technology barriers limiting private sector interest or re-purposes original research for new problems. In either case, these funds would leverage publicly funded research results that would normally sit on the lab shelf and instead move it closer to potentially successful market outcomes.

Congress should add more weight for technology transfer measures in the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories Performance and Evaluation Measurement Plans.

Despite the Congressional mandate to promote technology transfer and economic outcomes, the Department of Energy (DOE) holds technology transfer as a relatively low priority on the National Laboratories Performance Evaluation and Measurement Plans (PEMPs), otherwise known as the labs’ report card. In fact, technology transfer is not even one of the main eight criteria used for evaluation and is instead listed as the fifth bullet point underneath the sixth criteria on the list, carrying scant weight. As a result, the national labs are not incentivized to invest time, energy, or resources in facilitating technology transfer, despite potential financial upsides. Elevating this important function to its own category would have significant impacts on the management of the labs, and help to reverse the buildup of decades of skepticism and intransigence toward commercialization. Congress could quickly change the lack of incentive for technology transfer by requiring DOE to rank it as one of the key mission accomplishments under Section 1.0 of the National Laboratories’ PEMP.