February 2, 2018
Capitol Update

In this issue:


U.S. FALLS OUT OF TOP 10 INNOVATING COUNTRIES

Following the release of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) 2018 Science and Engineering Indicators report, the United States’ standing within the global manufacturing community continues to make headlines with the recent release of Bloomberg’s Innovation Index 2018. For the first time since the report began six years ago, the U.S. has fallen out of the Index’s Top 10 while South Korea and Sweden continue to maintain their first and second place rankings.

The rankings compared 80 different countries who were ranked on a scale of 1 to 100 based on the following criteria, all of which were equally weighted:

  • Research and Development Intensity
  • Manufacturing Value-Added
  • Productivity
  • High-Tech Density
  • Tertiary efficiency
  • Researcher Concentration
  • Patent Activity

In 2018, the U.S. dropped from ninth place to eleventh, due to declines in the value-added manufacturing and tertiary efficiency categories. South Korea held on to its number one spot for the fifth year in a row, thanks to factors such as low-cost manufacturing exports and prioritized investment in Research and Development. Singapore and Japan rounded out Asia’s representation in the top 10, coming in at third and sixth place respectively, both improvements on their 2017 rankings. China also saw its ranking change this year, moving up two spots on the list to 19. “One common trait of the U.S., Korea and China is that people accept failure as part of the process,” explained Asian brokerage and investment group, CLSA’s Thai country head Prinn Panitchpakdi.

France switched places with the U.S., moving from 11 to place, joining fellow European countries Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Finland and Denmark in the top 10. Israel rounded out the list, maintain the same position as last year at number 10.

For more information on the Innovation Index 2018, visit: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-22/south-korea-tops-global-innovation-ranking-again-as-u-s-falls


SENATE COMMERCE AND SCIENCE COMMITTEE CONVENES HEARING ON THE AMERICAN INNOVATION AND COMPETITIVENESS ACT (AICA)

The Senate this week held a hearing titled “One Year Later: The American Innovation and Competitiveness Act,” with National Science Foundation (NSF) Director Dr. France Cordova and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Director Dr. Walter Copan testifying.

The American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA), signed into law in January 2017, reauthorized NSF and NIST for the first time in six years. As the law’s original sponsor, Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) chaired the hearing and asked Director Cordova to discuss the impacts of increasing U.S. contributions to research and development from 0.7 percent of GDP to 2 percent. Director Cordova responded that a significant increase would be “tremendous horsepower for the nation,” citing the prospects of medical advances, new discoveries and remaining competitive with China.

NIST Director Dr. Copan spoke to some of the benefits that a renewed commitment to scientific agencies through AICA provides. In his testimony, Director Copan stated that NIST is prioritizing advanced manufacturing. He explained that since AICA was signed into law, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP)—a public-private partnership responsible for $9.3 billion in sales and 86,602 jobs in 2017—has continued to thrive and increase its reach. When Director Copan was asked to expand on NIST’s efforts to address the critical need for cybersecurity for our small businesses he spoke of the important role of Manufacturing USA Institutes and MEP centers in ensuring DOD supply chain readiness and security. These manufacturing programs provide the framework for the strong partnership between NIST, DOD, and U.S. manufacturers and have specifically provided training to translate NIST’s Cybersecurity Framework into a format small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can utilize.

Under AICA, NSF has also reaffirmed its commitment to STEM education, establishing the STEM Education Advisory Council in October 2017. Addressing concerns that not enough women and minorities are involved in STEM, Director Cordova praised NSF’s INCLUDES initiative. She also touted the I-Corps as successful in catalyzing the commercialization of basic research and raising $250 million in seed capital.

During the hearing, Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Ranking Member Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) expressed alarm at the 2018 budget’s “slashing” of NSF by 11 percent and NIST by 23 percent. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) pointed out that the current Administration has still not appointed an Office of Science and Technology (OSTP) Director, someone who would have likely testified at this hearing.

For additional information on Manufacturing USA, visit: https://www.manufacturingusa.com/

To view NIST’s Cybersecurity Framework, visit: https://www.nist.gov/cyberframework

To view the archived video of the hearing, please visit: https://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/hearings?ID=99ED6261-9C59-4B88-9F91-8D60E64787FE


PROBLEM SOLVERS CAUCUS UNITES FOR INFRASTRUCTURE

The start of the 115th Congress saw the creation of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group of roughly 40 members, chaired by Representatives Tom Reed (R-NY) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ). As the chairs explained, the goal of the caucus is to “… create a bipartisan group committed to getting to “yes” on important issues.” Policy priorities for the caucus include budget reform, immigration, health care, and now infrastructure. 

The Caucus recently released a report on “Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure.” Broken down into specific infrastructure industries, the report examines the current state of American infrastructure and provides bipartisan suggestions on how to improve it moving forward. The report concludes a two month information- gathering period in which the Caucus held a slew of meetings to determine the most effective ways to improve America’s infrastructure.

The report argues that “America is no longer keeping pace and continues to fall behind other countries” in maintaining and upgrading national critical infrastructure assets.  Along with sector-specific recommendations, the report calls for both a public-private partnerships, as well as greater involvement from federal infrastructure agencies. Caucus Co-Chair Tom Reed (R-NY) explained, “It’s always better for the country when we act together. The bipartisan policy solutions we’ve delivered provide Congress the building blocks necessary to craft a comprehensive infrastructure plan that both parties can agree to.”

The report includes specific recommendations for surface transportation, ports and inland waterways, water and wastewater infrastructure, energy, telecommunications, and aviation. Access the full report at: https://faso.house.gov/uploadedfiles/psc_infrastructure_report.pdf


REPUBLICANS LEAD NEW PUSH TO REVIVE EARMARKS

While a bipartisan budget agreement remains elusive, many Republicans in Congress are warming to the idea of bringing back congressionally directed spending, otherwise known as earmarks. The ban on earmarks was imposed in the House of Representatives at the urging of former Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) in 2011. Since then, Congress has imposed additional restrictions on federal spending, including budget caps on all discretionary spending, further restricting the ability of lawmakers to ensure federal dollars are being directed to priority issues in their districts. 

Of the 238 members of the House Republican Conference, 153 first began serving in January 2011 or later, leaving them no experience with the earmarking process. Some veteran lawmakers such as Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), argue that it is time to revisit the ban.  Rep. Cole’s proposal would allow Congress to direct as much as $15 billion a year to specific projects.  Rep. Cole sits on the House Appropriations Committee and frequently argues that Congress should reclaim its authority to direct spending and ensure priority projects are funded appropriately by the executive branch.

“Since the enactment of this ban, members and their constituents have grown more frustrated as federal funds have been appropriated only to be redirected to different uses via executive branch directive,” said Republican Conference Vice Chairman Doug Collins (R-GA).  Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) said his panel would vote soon on recommendations to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and the House Republican Conference. Wisconsin colleague and Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) said he might support a competitive and open process for selecting projects to put at the top of the federal priority list, particularly for infrastructure.

Several Appropriators offered amendments at the beginning of the 115th Congress that would amend House Republican Conference rules to allow earmarks once again, but the measure was withdrawn unilaterally by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-OH), preventing the issue from coming to a vote in the Republican Conference.


CONGRESSIONAL BRIEFING HIGHLIGHTS THE ROLES SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PLAY IN STRENGTHENING THE DEFENSE INDUSTRIAL BASE

ASME recently joined the Coalition for National Security Research (CNSR) in hosting a Congressional briefing on the important role of Defense Science and Technology (S&T) funding in ensuring a strong defense industrial base.

Poster presentations showcasing DOD-funded research at CNSR-member universities framed the room for guests to view as they found their seats. Congressman Jack Bergman (R-MI) and Congressman Bill Flores (R-TX) met with researchers from universities in their own Congressional Districts to learn more about the scientific advances being made through DOD-funded research.

Major General (ret.) Nick Justice, Executive Director of PowerAmerica Manufacturing USA, moderated the event and introduced Dale Ormond, Principle Director for the Research Directorate OASD (R&E), to deliver opening remarks before four DOD-funded researchers presented their cutting-edge research to the audience of over 80.

Dr. Neil Gershenfeld of MIT exhibited his work on creating new mechanical processes based on biology that allows manufacturers to digitize the actual material components. Dr. Andrew Ellington shared that impactful research often starts under DOD and that the future capabilities of the U.S. depend on the basic research conducted today. Dr. Tony Rivera of the University of Maryland highlighted the value of diversity in STEM, and Dr. Robert Ghrist of University of Pennsylvania spoke to the importance of interactive learning in STEM fields to increase comprehension of complex subjects and problem solving abilities. 

Following the presentations, Special Guest Rear Admiral (ret.) Mathew Klunder commented on the government’s vital role in the innovation ecosystem, as federal funding catalyzes additional investments elsewhere, multiplying its impact. Former Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics John J. Young, Jr. offered closing remarks, testifying to the importance of a robust S&T program in ensuring a strong defense industrial base. He encouraged the audience to invest in research even when it has no obvious application, as those experiments often lead to world-changing discoveries.

A full video of the briefing will be available for viewing sometime in the future and a link will be included in a future edition of Capitol Update.


NSF ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR ENGINEERING RESEARCH AND ROBOTICS FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES

The National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Directorate (ENG) has developed an initiative called the Professional Formation of Engineers, aimed at providing professional development to Engineers, such as the “development of identity as an engineer and its intersection with other identities…” To ensure longevity and long-term success, the engineering profession must be flexible and able to adapt to society’s ever-evolving needs, while continuing to attract a wide pool of future engineers. A key way to remain a fluid, enticing professional field through passionate, capable faculty that will “create and support an innovative and inclusive engineering profession for the 21st Century.”

The NSF is currently accepting applications for its PFE: Research Initiation in Engineering Formation (PFE: RIEF) funding opportunity. The opportunity allows engineering faculty with limited experience conducting social science research to do so on best practices in educating future engineering students, and receive mentorship on incorporating the social sciences into their approach.  The primary objective of PFE: RIEF is “enabling engineering faculty…to initiate collaborative partnerships in research related to the professional formation of engineers” with a focus on “faculty development and cross-disciplinary collaboration.” The deadline for PFE: RIEF applications is February 22 at 5pm local time.

Applicants interested in the PFE with prior engineering education research or other social science research experience can apply for the PFE: Research in the Formation of Engineers (PFE: RFE) funding opportunity. PFE: RFE is accepting proposals under two categories: Research Projects, which “address fundamental questions of professional formation,” and Design and Development Projects, which “provide new approaches to achieving professional formation.” PFE: RFE projects are expected last 36 months, with an average award of $350,000. The deadline for PFE: RFE applications is September 26.

The National Robotics Initiative –2.0: Ubiquitous Collaborative Robots (NRI: 2.0) program is an extension of the original National Robotics Initiative program that was developed to “support fundamental research in the United States that will accelerate the development and use of collaborative robots (co-robots) that work beside or cooperatively with people.” The goal of NRI—2.0 is to build on the research done under the original NRI program, specifically focusing on the “seamless integration” of robots into everyday life. NRI–2.0 projects can be submitted under one of four main areas of research:

  • Scalability
  • Customizability
  • Lowering barriers to entry
  • Societal impact

Coordination amongst sectors is encouraged to strengthen links between “fundamental science and engineering and technology development, deployment, and use.”
The deadline for NRI—2.0 applications is February 20 at 5pm local time.

For more information on the PFE: RIEF opportunity, click here: https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=503603

For more information on the PFE: RFE opportunity, click here: https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=503584

For more information on the NRI—2.0 opportunity, click here: https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=503641

The articles contained in Capitol Update are not positions of ASME or any of its sub-entities, unless specifically noted as such. This publication is designed to inform ASME members about issues of concern being debated and discussed in the halls of congress, in the states and in the federal agencies.

ASME Government Relations
1828 L Street, NW, Suite 510
Washington, DC 20036
Website: http://www.asme.org/about-asme/advocacy-government-relations

Paul Fakes is the Regulatory and Government Relations Manager, Technology Policy. He covers Standards and Energy and Environment.

Samantha Fijacko is the Senior Government Relations Representative. She covers Advanced Manufacturing, Robotics and R&D.

Anne Nadler is the Government Relations Representative. She covers Bioengineering, STEM Education and R&D.