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Senate Holds Hearing on the Impact of Research and Innovation on U.S. Economic Leadership

Senate Holds Hearing on the Impact of Research and Innovation on U.S. Economic Leadership

Last week, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Subcommittee on Science, Oceans, Fisheries, and Weather held a hearing on “Research & Innovation: Ensuring America’s Economic and Strategic Leadership.” Subcommittee Chairman Cory Gardner (R-CO) opened the hearing stating plainly that the United States must invest in and grow the nation’s research and development (R&D) footprint to remain competitive with countries like China. A panel of four experts then gave testimony supporting the importance of U.S. leadership in technological and scientific innovation, and invited the Committee to act by prioritizing science and engineering in the Federal budget.
Chancellor Rebecca M. Blank of the University of Wisconsin–Madison gave testimony at the hearing, citing a recent report titled “Second Place America? Increasing Challenges to U.S. Scientific Leadership: 2019 Benchmarks” produced by the Task Force for American Innovation (TFAI). TFAI is a non-partisan alliance of leading American companies and business associations, research university associations, and scientific societies, in which ASME is an active member. Chancellor Blank testified that the “TFAI report notes that the U.S. trails the E.U. and China in output of bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering. China is now the world’s number one producer of undergraduates with science and engineering degrees, delivering almost one quarter of first university degrees in science and engineering globally.”
Dr. Diane Souvaine, Chair of the National Science Board, commented that America’s “preeminence has not happened by chance. Sustained, bipartisan commitment to investing in fundamental research has played a key role in establishing and maintaining our innovation enterprise.” She emphasizes that sustained, robust federal spending for basic research is of the upmost importance if the U.S. is to see future economic growth. Her testimony continued on to emphasis the importance of basic research agencies like the National Science Foundation (NSF), suggesting that they have “significant differences in scope and time horizons from private business and mission agencies” and that public-private partnerships are instrumental in ensuring the U.S. holds a competitive advantage when it comes to technological and scientific innovation.
Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan, Executive Vice President and Chief Research and Innovation Officer at Arizona State University also shared this sentiment, stating that “a strong R&D ecosystem with federal labs, academia, and industry focused on advancing new ideas can be a powerful recipe for economic development.”
Dr. David Shaw, Provost and Executive Vice President of Mississippi State University, gave testimony that even went so far as to share basic criteria that would work to ensure America’s future as an economic and strategic global leader, commenting that investments must be “broad-based geographically … trans-disciplinary in nature … broadly supportive of both fundamental and developmental research endeavors … [and must encourage] federal, state, university, and industry partnerships.”
To view a full recording of the hearing, please visit the Committee’s website.

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