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Senate Passes the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act

Senate Passes the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act

On June 8, the Senate passed the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, formerly the Endless Frontier Act, with bipartisan support in a 63-32 vote. The legislation would invest almost $250 billion in U.S. research, development, and innovation so the U.S. is better equipped to compete with China. The legislation authorizes $190 billion for research and development at universities and other institutions. The fate of the bill is uncertain as House leaders have not committed to take up the bill and may pursue their own legislation to overhaul the National Science Foundation (NSF).
The legislation allocates funding to create a new NSF directorate that would be responsible for accelerating the process of turning basic research into new technologies and products. Of the $250 billion, $81 billion would go to NSF with $29 billion of those funds being put towards the directorate over five years. The directorate would be charged with pursuing national advancement in 10 key technology focus areas, including many that align with ASME’s own technology priority areas:
  1. Robotics, automation, and advanced manufacturing
  2. Biotechnology
  3. Advanced energy
  4. Artificial intelligence
  5. Advanced materials science
  6. High performance computing
  7. Quantum computing
  8. Natural and anthropogenic disaster prevention or mitigation
  9. Advanced communications technology
  10. Cybersecurity
The bill also includes provisions that would further strengthen domestic R&D, including establishing a supply chain resiliency program and expanding the Manufacturing USA network of institutes. The legislation includes funding for both current and future Manufacturing USA institutes, authorizing $1.2 billion for fiscal years 2022 through 2026 for the Secretary of Commerce, acting through the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), to carry out and expand the Manufacturing USA program and support innovation and growth in domestic manufacturing.
The bill would also allocate $10 billion over five years for the creation of a Regional Technology Hub Program to be administered by NIST. The program would provide grants to consortia working in the same specified technology areas included as the key focus areas under the new NSF directorate.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor ahead of the vote that “Whoever wins the race to the technologies of the future is going to the be global economic leader—with profound consequences for foreign policy and national security as well.” He believes this bill will allow the U.S. to be more competitive on this front.
ASME authored a letter of support to Senate leaders for important provisions in the Endless Fronter Act in May. Many of the provisions supported by ASME have been included in the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act.

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