Innovation on Capitol Hill

The federal government’s role in spurring innovation continues to be a hot topic on Capitol Hill.

Last Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Commerce Science, and Transportation’s subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation, and Export Promotion heard experts ranging from Aneesh P. Chopra, the Chief Technology Officer and Associated Director for Technology from the Office of Science and Technology Policy to Mr. Rhys L. Williams, President of New World Angels, Inc., talk about the difficulties the U.S. faces in spurring private sector innovation. The hearing, “Innovation in America: Opportunities and Obstacles,” featured two panels testifying on the current challenges in innovation and possible solutions to fix the situation. Both panels agreed that it is imperative the United States create an innovation strategy. They also agreed that innovation in America would be greatly enhanced by better translation of ideas from academia to the private sector.

Then on Thursday, the Coalition for National Science Funding (of which CRA is a member) and the National Science Foundation partnered to put together an event for lawmakers on the House side to highlight some of NSF’s successes in funding basic research. The event, “NSF: Investing in America’s Future,” featured Doctor Erin Santini Bell, Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of New Hampshire, who has developed “new methods of incorporating structural modeling, instrumentation and non-destructive testing to asses the structural health of bridges”, and Doctor Laura Landweber, Professor of Biology at Princeton University, who studies “the roles of RNA in epigenetic inheritance”, who talked about the importance of NSF in supporting their research.

Attendance was great at both events, despite a packed legislative schedule, which bodes well for those interested in seeing the U.S. stay committed to fostering innovation. Though perhaps a more definitive sign of support was the approval Tuesday by the House Commerce, Justice, Science of a significant increase for the NSF budget in FY11.

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