New Report: Investing in Innovation is Crucial to Economic Growth and Competitiveness

[Ed. Note: Watch Secretary of Commerce John Bryson unveil the report details live today from 10 am - noon]

Today, the Commerce Department and the White House sent to Congress the Administration’s plan on The Competitiveness and Innovative Capacity of the United States, fulfilling an important requirement under the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 which President Obama signed into law one year ago this month. 

As the report emphasizes, innovation has been a key driver of U.S. prosperity and competitiveness throughout our history. Government investments in the building blocks of innovation – basic research, education, and infrastructure – have helped fuel and sustain the ingenuity of the inventors and innovators.  Innovation-based economic growth has brought us higher paying, higher quality jobs as well as improved health and quality of life. Federally-supported research has led to world-changing advancements in a variety of fields, including laying the groundwork for the integrated circuit and computer industry; the Internet; advances in chemicals, agriculture, and medical science; and GPS. Millions of workers can trace their industries and companies back to technological breakthroughs funded by the Federal government.  

In the 20th century, our schools turned out high school and college graduates at a higher rate than anywhere else in the world, creating a highly-skilled workforce and boosting innovation.  And Federal infrastructure investments helped electrify the country, make clean water widely available, make air travel more affordable, and construct an interstate highway system. These developments helped businesses compete by opening up new markets to sell their products and services, while keeping costs low. 

Today’s report emphasizes new challenges in each of these areas, and provides a roadmap for meeting these challenges to help ensure American global economic growth and competitiveness in the coming decades. As articulated in his Strategy for American Innovation, President Obama’s approach to innovation emphasizes the idea that we must harness the inherent ingenuity of the American people to ensure that our economic growth continues to be rapid, broad-based, and sustained.  “We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time,” President Obama said in his 2011 State of the Union address. “We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.” And we must do so in a way that is fiscally responsible by investing in what makes America stronger, cutting what doesn’t, and reforming how our government operates so that it focuses on promoting our economic growth and preparing for the challenges of a new century.  

Building on that strategy, today’s report calls for sustained Federal support for basic research and robust efforts to transfer research from the lab into commercial products.  It also underscores the importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and a sustained Federal commitment to spurring innovation through the development of 21st century infrastructure -- including a modern electric grid and broadband Internet access to all corners of America. 

As President Obama explained to a joint session of Congress in September, the Administration is focused on “the urgent need to create jobs right away.”  But, the President explained:  “we can’t stop there. . . we have to look beyond the immediate crisis and start building an economy that lasts into the future  – an economy that creates good, middle-class jobs that pay well and offer security. We now live in a world where technology has made it possible for companies to take their business anywhere. If we want them to start here and stay here and hire here, we have to be able to out-build and out-educate and out-innovate every other country on Earth.” 

Today’s report, which was developed after an extensive public outreach process and in consultation with an Innovation Advisory Board, points the way towards a plan for enabling the jobs and industries of the future by doing what America does best – investing in the creativity and imagination of our people. 

Quentin Palfrey is Senior Advisor for Jobs & Competitiveness in the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy and Brandon Belford is a Senior Policy Advisor at the National Economic Council
Related Topics: Economy, Education, Technology
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