The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held the first full committee hearing of the 113th Congress yesterday and it was focused on research and development for competitiveness. President and CEO of Texas Instruments Richard Templeton, PCAST member and RPI president Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, and National Academy of Engineering president Dr. Charles Vest testified and Templeton and Jackson co-authored an op-ed in Politico on the importance of R&D.

Templeton testified first and emphasized the historic role of research on America╒s industries while noting the needs of the future. He pointed out that scientific discovery and technological advances are responsible for half of America╒s economic growth over the last fifty years and that if we want to continue to lead the world economy, we will need to have the research platform for new and advanced industries over the next fifty years. Templeton pointed out that it’s not as easy for the US to lead as it used to be because other countries have watched our success and are seeking to recreate it with increased investments in R&D and education while the US has begun to decrease these investments. He also noted that the US ability to attract the best and brightest minds from around the world has been diminished, both by increased opportunities in other countries and by the US inability to retain highly educated immigrants after they finish a PhD at a US university.

Jackson spoke to the need to focus on strategic areas that will create game changing ideas and then providing the transitional support to cross the ╥valley of death╙ from research to product. She also spoke to the role of education and the need for stronger STEM instruction in K-12 as well as the need to attract a broader segment of the brightest minds into STEM fields at the undergraduate and graduate level.

Vest stated that if the US funds research we will be surprised by the new innovations in fifty years just like people in the early 1960s could not have predicted the rise of the information technology economy that we have today. He noted that America needs to fix K-12 STEM education including by using hands on learning to make STEM concepts fun and accessible to young minds, allow the brightest minds from around the world to study and stay in America, and to make the R&D tax credit for companies permanent.

In the Politico op-ed, Templeton and Jackson reiterated many of the points they made in testimony and also wrote:

Looming across-the-board budget cuts known as the sequester are set to significantly reduce vital federal investments in scientific research and development, and in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education. These indiscriminate cuts may save money in the short term.

But there will be a significant, long-term, irreparable price to pay if the U.S. government slashes its support for science and engineering and for those who pursue those fields. We urge Congress to approach this challenge in a thoughtful, strategic way, allocating scarce funds in a manner that creates economic growth and security both now and in the future. Good times or bad, one must manage for the future. Discovery and innovation is the pathway there.

The full op-ed and the written and verbal testimony of all three witnesses are available online.