TechNet, a “bipartisan, political network of CEOs” of technology companies including Intel, HP, Cisco, 3Com and others, has released its Innovation Priorities for the coming year, which includes a call for an increase for basic research funding at federal agencies. The priorities result from a series of “Innovation Summits” with industry, academia and policymakers the group held over the last half of last year, which found that:
The U.S. education system is not preparing young Americans for the careers of the future; The United States is no longer assured of attracting and retaining the world’s best innovators; Global innovation leadership requires a long-term, strategic approach to create an ecosystem that fosters innovation; We are gravely under-investing in research and development as a nation; The U.S. lags behind other nations in the deployment of broadband networks that are the foundation of the next wave of technology innovation.
The findings led a series of recommendations, which are worth reading. Here are a couple:
Strengthen education and develop a skilled technology workforce. Specific education recommendations include continued implementation and full funding of the No Child Left Behind Act; making science, math, engineering and technology education a national priority by increasing funding for math and science partnerships; effective retraining for displaced and unemployed U.S. workers; and, efforts to ensure that foreign innovators trained in the United States are able to remain to create technologies, companies and jobs.
TechNet is also announcing today the formation of an CEO Education Task Force. It includes Craig Barrett, CEO, Intel Corporation; Art Coviello, President and CEO, RSA Security; Paul Deninger, Chairman, Broadview – A Jeffries Company; John Doerr, Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; John Morgridge, Chairman, Cisco Systems, Inc.; Henry Samueli, Chairman and CTO, Broadcom; Stratton Sclavos, President and CEO, VeriSign; Jeff Taylor, Founder, Monster Worldwide; and Joe Tucci, President and CEO, EMC Corporation.
Increase federal funding for basic research at key agencies and enact a permanent extension of the R&D tax credit. A sustained public and private investment in R&D will foster a skilled American workforce, stimulate new technologies and maintain U.S. dominance in vital industries. It is critical that Congress enact a permanent R&D tax credit and take steps to achieve a doubling of the basic research budget of the National Science Foundation.
With that, TechNet joins a growing group of companies and industry associations that are drawing attention to the importance of federal investment of basic research in fueling the innovation that drives U.S. competitiveness. In recent weeks, the American Electronics Association, the Council on Competitiveness (pdf), the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation (pdf), and the Computer Systems Policy Project (to name a few) have all put out reports or issued statements affirming the importance of the federal investment in basic research. The message is starting to resonate will policymakers. In the Democratic response to the President’s State of the Union speech this year, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) mentioned the importance of spurring R&D to create “the jobs of the future.” And Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) wrote recently that the U.S. isn’t doing enough to “nuture the next Einsteins.”
The lack of federal investment in basic research and restrictive immigration policies are eroding America’s leadership in the sciences. The ripple effects of these two troublesome trends are enormous: Our future economic competitiveness and quality of life depend on our ability to stay ahead of the scientific and technological curve.
We’ll be working hard this year to make sure that the message does more than resonate — that it results in some real priority in the budget for fundamental research investments.
Update: Here’s more coverage.
Another Update: MIT’s Technology Review says more companies and industry groups need to step up their advocacy for fundamental research support:
It’s time for those who make their livings by investing in emerging-technology companies to voice concern. Rational voices in the university research community, like [Shirley] Jackson’s [President of AAAS], wont be heard unless financial leaders amplify the message.
The next few months will be crucial, as President Bush’s proposed 2006 federal budget is debated in Congress. While the nation’s enormous deficit will certainly mean greater frugality, legislators need to strengthen, even if only modestly, funding for NSF and NIH. A good starting point would be to hold President Bush and Congress accountable for reneging on 2002 legislation that authorized a doubling of NSFs budget by 2007. That doubling wont happen now: thats clear. But financial leaders who are dependent, one way or another, on government funding of research should ask why not. There should be outrage over the erosion of U.S. research institutions.