When it comes to innovation and competitiveness, there is a lot to like in the President’s budget. The President deserves praise for at last pointing the country in a new direction but he must better prepare us for an arduous and uncertain journey on the road to global competitiveness and innovation.
To his credit, the President is standing up to those who would drop an engine to lighten the load of plane in flight. The investments he proposes to make in emerging technologies, energy innovation and education are essential to our economic future. The president rightly proposes increased funding for innovation—from increases at National Institutes for Health, to the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program at the National Institute for Standards and Technology, to the Patent and Trademark Office, to expanding renewable energy R&D.
At the same time, we need to remember how far we have fallen behind. Until the late 1980s the federal government provided generous support for scientific and technological research. This spurred private sector research, a strong technology sector and helped make us the most innovative country in the world. But growth in federal support over the last quarter century has been so anemic that if we wanted to restore federal support for research to its 1987 levels (as a share of GDP), we would have to invest an additional $60 billion annually! The President’s budget falls far short of that figure. For example, the President recommends increases in ARPA-E funding to $55