House Budget Committee Hearing Extolls the Benefits of R&D Funding

Jul 17, 2020


The House Committee on the Budget recently held a hearing examining the impact of research and development (R&D) federal funding on U.S. agility to respond to emerging threats, as well as day to day quality of life and economic health. While there may have been slight fluctuations on a yearly basis, overall R&D funding has seen a decline over the past few decades. Though the 4-member witness panel drew from various sectors and industries, the overarching message throughout the hearing was the same: for the U.S. to remain competitive on the global stage, funding for R&D is essential.
The witness panel encompassed:
  • Sudip Parikh, Ph.D., CEO, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
  • Paul Romer, Ph.D., Professor, New York University
  • The Hon. Deborah Wince-Smith, President and CEO, Council on Competitiveness
  • Willy Shih, Ph.D., Professor of Management Practice, Harvard Business School
Along with the echoes of support for sustained federal R&D funding was the call for greater funding and support for basic research. Basic research is essentially research that seeks to fill in the holes of knowledge that we lack, as opposed to applied research that seeks to answer a specific question. Here in the U.S. roughly six federal agencies are tasked with conducting the bulk of the nation’s basic research. In conjunction with these federal efforts, universities carry out a great deal of basic research domestically. Strong support for basic research establishes a strong foundation for greater R&D. As Dr. Shih surmised, “Funding for basic research, particularly at Universities, is about building capabilities. It’s about training future generations of researchers. As these researchers flow into industry, they bring those capabilities with them.”
But strong R&D support is not just limited to research funding. As Dr. Parik explained, R&D funding also leads to innovation that benefits industries beyond strictly research, such as manufacturing, creating a symbiotic ecosystem of R&D: “R&D investments are critical sources for manufacturing innovation: manufacturers get some of their get some of their most important and profitable inventions from sources outside the firm, including universities and startups.” Ms. Wince-Smith further expounded on this symbiosis, delving into the increasing digitization of industries, and the rise of artificial intelligence technologies. The advancement of these critical technologies is thanks in part to federal R&D efforts. To continue these advancements, she surmised, federal support and engagement is needed in concert with the private sector.
With the U.S. still fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, the relationship between pandemic response and R&D funding was discussed at length. In his opening remarks, Committee Chairman John Yarmuth noted, “Experts have stressed the importance of aggressive, responsible, and strategic investments to our recovery from COVID-19 and the economic fallout. Aside from the obvious – like developing vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 – federal R&D investments would also help spur an inclusive recovery, boost regional economies, and put Americans back to work.” For the U.S. to establish long-term pandemic response capabilities, sustained federal funding for R&D is important. 
To view the hearing in full, click here:

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