December 12, 2016 – The United States Senate approved the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, a bicameral, bipartisan legislative compromise originally introduced by Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI), along with John Thune (R-SD), and Bill Nelson (D-FL), that maximizes basic research opportunities, reduces administrative burdens for researchers, encourages scientific entrepreneurship, and promotes oversight of taxpayer-funded research. The legislation also promotes diversity in STEM fields, incentivizes private-sector innovation, and aims to improve manufacturing. It most directly affects programs within the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
Beginning in July of 2015, Gardner and Peters led the Senate Commerce Committee’s innovation and competitiveness working group on ways to update federal science and technology research policy. The working group was designed to facilitate a dialogue between leaders on federal science and technology research and gather feedback to consider in developing the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act
“America is at its best when it empowers our entrepreneurs and innovators with the tools they need to keep America competitive and at the forefront of cutting-edge research and development,” said Gardner. “The American Innovation and Competitiveness Act has made science bipartisan again. It is a collaborative, bipartisan effort that updates and enhances federal research and technology policy. It highlights STEM education and incentivizes entrepreneurship and private sector development, while at the same time enhancing oversight of federal agencies to ensure the most effective use of resources. This legislation paves the way for our country to grow our economy and create good-paying jobs, and its passage represents a significant step forward.”
“Research and innovation are the cornerstones of the American economy, generating new discoveries that become major industries, create jobs and keep our nation internationally competitive,” said Senator Peters, Ranking Member of the Space, Science and Competitiveness Subcommittee. “I was honored to work with Senator Gardner, Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson on this bipartisan legislation that takes important steps to improve STEM education efforts, boost small and medium sized manufacturers, and encourage entrepreneurs to turn their discoveries into new businesses that strengthen America’s competitive edge and keep us at the forefront of the global economy.”
Highlights of the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act
Maximizing Basic Research
Highlights Peer Review: Reaffirms the appropriateness of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) intellectual merit and broader impacts criteria used to evaluate grant proposals.
Keeps Government Accountable to Taxpayers: Promotes transparency by requiring public notices of grants to justify the project’s expenditures and confirm that they align with NSF’s priorities.
Broadens Research Opportunities: Updates NSF’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) to continue promoting groundbreaking research in states that receive relatively little federal research money.
Modernizes Existing Programs: Includes updates to the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) programs, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST’s) laboratory and education outreach programs.
Administrative and Regulatory Burden Reduction
Reduces Paperwork Burdens: Establishes an inter-agency working group to provide recommendations on eliminating unnecessary paperwork for researchers and institutions.
Streamlines Government: Repeals obsolete agency reports and unfunded government programs.
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
Enhances Scientific Community Input: Establishes a STEM Advisory Panel composed of academic and industry representatives to provide recommendations on federal STEM programs.
Promotes Diversity in STEM Fields: Creates a working group to study how to improve inclusion of women and underrepresented individuals in STEM fields and reaffirms the necessity of broadening participation in STEM fields through NSF programs.
Leveraging the Private Sector
Incentivizes Private-Sector Innovation: Updates prize competition authority to encourage greater participation in federal prize competitions.
Expands Opportunities for Public Involvement: Permits federal science agencies to use crowdsourcing as a tool to conduct agency projects.
Encourages Improved Manufacturing: Adjusts the federal cost-share ratio and implements new accountability and oversight provisions within NIST’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program.
Innovation and Technology Transfer
Bolsters Scientific Entrepreneurship: Authorizes the successful I-Corps program to help scientists move their research from the laboratory to the marketplace.
Reaffirms Importance of Commercialization: Directs NSF to continue awarding translational research grants and strengthen public-private cooperation.
Click here to read the full text of the bill.