R&D, Innovation, and American Competitiveness

Last week the Obama administration unveiled a new initiative to bolster innovation and research in the form of a $100 billion research and development (R&D) tax credit.  The proposal was designed to “encourage private sector R&D” and would make permanent the tax credit.  It was in keeping with the three roles for government Obama has identified in his national innovation strategy: invest in the building blocks of long-term economic growth, create the right environment to encourage private sector investment, and harness innovative power.

Meanwhile, a bill that would have made the research tax credit permanent recently failed in the Senate, as Democrats argued that it would delay passage of a small-business bill.

Historically, the federal government has been eager to fund innovative research, providing support to projects as early as the 1930’s.  In fact, the United States has long been the largest funder of research and development, though many nations are quickly catching up by increasing the percentage of GDP devoted to R&D.

While the United States has long been at the forefront of funding new research and developing new technologies, the need to harness its innovative power through R&D is now more apparent than ever.  When testifying on Capitol Hill about R&D and clean energy, Michael Greenstone concluded, “The key purpose of my testimony has been to describe why R&D is crucial for our future competitiveness…”  Whether or not this message is taken to heart and the U.S. effectively harnesses its innovative power through R&D remains a key challenge in our increasingly globalized economy.

Posted by: Michael Darden

Sources: American Association for the Advancement of Science, Brookings Institute, Palo Alto Online, Reuters, whitehouse.gov

Photo credit: Using Argonne’s Modular Automotive Technology Testbed (MATT) courtesy of flickr user Argonne National Laboratory


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