Kilmer Authors Principles to Guide the Reauthorization of America COMPETES
As hearings on the first reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act since 2010 began this week, a set of principles authored by Representative Derek Kilmer was adopted today by the New Democrat Coalition to guide the reauthorization of the legislation. First passed in 2007 with strong bipartisan support, America COMPETES advances policies to increase America’s global competitiveness and prepare America’s workforce for the 21st century economy. The principles were authored by Representative Kilmer with input from the New Democrat Coalition including fellow Democrats on the Science, Space, and Technology Committee.
Representative Kilmer is leading the effort among the New Democrat Coalition to engage on this issue and plans to take an active role in ensuring that any final legislation that passes the Science, Space, and Technology Committee reflects a practical approach to growing America’s economy through research, education, and innovation.
“If America doesn’t raise its game through investments in education and innovation, we are going to get our backsides handed to us,” said Representative Derek Kilmer. “These principles for growth through innovation, research, and economic development offer a foundation for America’s continued competitiveness in a 21st Century economy. I'm proud to be working with the New Democrat Coalition to fight for practical, common sense solutions to grow our economy.”
Since early this year, the New Democrat Coalition has held informal talks and briefings including roundtables with the Washington Technology Alliance and with representatives from academia and industry in order to build principles to guide the reauthorization of America COMPETES. Republicans on the Science, Space, and Technology Committee announced that instead of reauthorizing the complete legislation, they will take a piecemeal approach with the first step being today’s hearing on the FIRST Act. Whether in a full COMPETES reauthorization or in piecemeal bills, Representative Kilmer and the New Democrat Coalition are committed to ensuring the full set of principles and comprehensive goals are ultimately passed by the Committee.
The New Democrat Coalition Principles for America COMPETES, authored by Representative Kilmer and adopted today follow:
- Supporting Basic Research - Basic scientific research serves as a foundation of innovation. To ensure our nation maintains and strengthens its competitiveness, funding for basic research across all scientific disciplines should be a priority. As the New Dems have stated in their Principles for Innovation and Competiveness, “Research conducted at U.S. universities primes the industrial pipeline, while training future generations of scientists and entrepreneurs.”
- Stabilizing Funding for Research and Development - Consistent funding streams for research and development provide our nation’s innovators with the stability necessary to take basic research into commercial development. Reliable funding ensures that innovators are able to secure long-term investors, and entice and leverage corporate investment into public-private partnerships. Further, greater funding consistency will help create a pipeline from basic research toward development. Intermittent and unreliable funding, as well as an increasing administrative burden, not only disrupts the research process, but also slows commercialization efforts.
- Supporting Paths to Success for Startups and Small Business - As the New Democrats have addressed in their Principles for Innovation and Competiveness, small businesses have been and continue to be a pathway for American entrepreneurship and innovative growth. In competitive global marketplace we must provide small businesses and startups with more than a path towards viability, but we must ensure that they can be competitive in international markets. With the fiscal constraints facing the US, we need to identify innovative ways to create a climate in which startups can thrive that do not rely solely upon new sources of government funding. We must structure steps that encourage further development rather than putting in place steep, uphill pathways to receive funding and mentorship. We need to streamline research and innovation and not create roadblocks for startups and small businesses.
- Expanding Public and Private Partnerships to Encourage Innovation - In our current fiscal climate, we need to look for ways to creatively use federal resources and promote private-public partnerships to spur innovation. As an example, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Education (ARPA-ED) draws on non-governmental organizations and the private sector to identify technological breakthroughs in teaching and learning. With limited and at times, inconsistent funding, many projects lose traction or become outdated. Continuing to encourage public-private partnerships with research universities and supporting programs—like the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR)—is critical to fostering growth at a community level. Focusing on expanding partnerships that can direct commercialization and fixes to systemic problems should be a prominent aspect in the COMPETES reauthorization.
- Encouraging Technology Transfer and Streamlining Innovation - While basic research is the foundation for innovation, we must increase our focus on research leading to product development, and how to disseminate research findings. As a country, job creation, whether through research or production is necessary to increase global competitiveness; research for the sake of research must transition to research geared towards economic and societal betterment.
- Overcoming the “Valleys of Death”: Proof of Concept and Commercialization - In the innovation process, entrepreneurs face difficulties proving the merit of their ideas, and bringing their ideas to the marketplace. Many research initiatives must first obtain initial seed money and business interest to determine whether a project can be viably translated into a prototype that merits further research and development funding. Establishing phases of project development encourages mentoring partnerships with the research and business worlds, allowing promising technologies to successfully make it to market.
- Funding for Regional Innovation Programs - While America COMPETES addresses initiatives on a national level, regional innovation programs have successfully demonstrated the ability to stimulate growth across our nation, including rural and impoverished areas. Programs such as the i6 Challenge and the Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge have helped regional industries forge an entrepreneurial ecosystem, creating jobs on a local and regional level.
- Supporting STEM Education and Workforce Development – Building a strong 21st century workforce is contingent upon the quality of our STEM programs at all levels of our education system. Investing in programs from pre-K initiatives designed to introduce our youngest students to exciting STEM fields to strengthening essential technical training programs at the community level will help align our education system with current and future workforce needs. A successful COMPETES reauthorization must be focused on increasing access for women and diversity in STEM fields, including computer science and engineering programs, so that students can visualize what a career in the STEM field would be.
- Increasing Prize Competition - America COMPETES provided government agencies the authority to conduct incentivized prize competitions as a way to discover innovative and scalable solutions that advance their core missions and build partnerships with the private sector. Reauthorization of these programs should ensure that government sponsored prize competitions are effectively utilized to spur innovation in the private, philanthropic and public sectors while solving some of world’s most challenging issues.