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Comparing the 2012 Presidential Candidates’ Technology and Innovation Policies

September 12, 2012
| Reports

Despite the obligatory acknowledgment of innovation’s central role in U.S. economic growth, the 2012 campaign has not yet seen a serious conversation emerge regarding the policies sorely needed to revitalize U.S. innovation-based economic competitiveness. Moreover, rather than adopt an “all of the above” approach to innovation policy that includes corporate tax and regulatory reform as well as increased federal investment in research and development (R&D), digital infrastructure, and skills, the candidates stress policies from “each column,” with Governor Romney focusing more on the former and President Obama more on the latter. This is unfortunate. For, as we write in the book Innovation Economics: The Race for Global Advantage, U.S. policymakers need to recognize that the United States is engaged in a fierce race for innovation-based economic growth. To win this race, the United States will need to adopt a new, bipartisan Washington Innovation Consensus that places science, technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship at the center of economic policy-making and recognizes that both parties bring good ideas to the table in this regard. 

This report highlights the candidates' technology and innovation policies with the aim of amplifying the national dialogue around bolstering innovation-based economic growth. The report begins with an overview of each candidate’s general philosophy on technology, innovation, and trade policy, and then compares the candidates’ specific policy positions across 10 policy areas:

  1. Innovation and R&D
  2. Energy Innovation
  3. Tax
  4. Manufacturing
  5. Trade
  6. Education and Skills
  7. Broadband and Telecommunications
  8. Regulation
  9. Internet/Digital Economy
  10. Life Sciences and Biotechnology

The report is based on information gathered directly from the campaigns’ websites and policy documents or from media reports of statements made by the candidates. In some cases where a candidate has not articulated a specific position, the candidate’s record while in office or the position of the candidate’s party (as reflected in the Democratic or Republican party platforms) is used as a proxy.

ITIF is a non-partisan research and educational institution—a think tank—focused on innovation, productivity, and digital economy issues, and does not endorse either candidate. Rather, this report seeks to provide a factual, impartial comparison of the candidates’ technology and innovation policies.

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