For more than half a century, the United States has led the world in scientific
discovery and innovation. It has been a beacon, drawing the best scientists
to its educational institutions, industries and laboratories from around
the globe. However, in today’s rapidly evolving competitive world, the
United States can no longer take its supremacy for granted. Nations from
Europe to Eastern Asia are on a fast track to pass the United States in
scientific excellence and technological innovation.
The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation has developed a set
of benchmarks to assess the international standing of the United States
in science and technology. These benchmarks in education, the science
and engineering (S&E) workforce, scientific knowledge, innovation, investment
and high-tech economic output reveal troubling trends across the research
and development (R&D) spectrum. The United States still leads the world
in research and discovery, but our advantage is rapidly eroding, and our
global competitors may soon overtake us.
Research, education, the technical workforce, scientific discovery, innovation
and economic growth are intertwined. To remain competitive on the global
stage, we must ensure that each remains vigorous and healthy. That requires
sustained investments and informed policies.
Federal support of science and engineering research in universities and
national laboratories has been key to America’s prosperity for more than
half a century. A robust educational system to support and train the best
U.S. scientists and engineers and to attract outstanding students from
other nations is essential for producing a world-class workforce and enabling
the R&D enterprise it underpins. But in recent years federal investments
in the physical sciences, math and engineering have not kept pace with
the demands of a knowledge economy, declining sharply as a percentage
of the gross domestic product. This has placed future innovation and our
economic competitiveness at risk.
To help policymakers and others assess U.S. high-tech competitiveness
and the health of the American science and engineering enterprise, we
have identified key benchmarks in six essential areas - education, the
workforce, knowledge creation and new ideas, R&D investments, the high-tech
economy, and specific high-tech sectors. We conclude that although the
United States still leads the world in research and discovery, our advantage
is eroding rapidly as other countries commit significant resources to
enhance their own innovative capabilities.
It is essential that we act now; otherwise our global leadership will
dwindle, and the talent pool required to support our high-tech economy
will evaporate. As a recent report by the Council on Competitiveness recommends,
to help address this situation the federal government should:
Increase significantly the research
budgets of agencies that support basic research in the physical sciences
and engineering, and complete the commitment to double the NSF budget.
These increases should strive to ensure that the federal commitment
of research to all federal agencies totals one percent of U.S. GDP.
|This is not just a question of economic progress.
Not only do our economy and quality of life depend critically on a vibrant
R&D enterprise, but so too do our national and homeland security. As the
Hart- Rudman Commission on National Security stated in 2001:
…[T]he U.S. government has seriously
underfunded basic scientific research in recent years… [T]he inadequacies
of our systems of research and education pose a greater threat to U.S.
national security over the next quarter century than any potential conventional
war that we might imagine. American national leadership must understand
these deficiencies as threats to national security. If we do not invest
heavily and wisely in rebuilding these two core strengths, America will
be incapable of maintaining its global position long into the 21st century.
|In the post-9/11 era especially, we should
heed this warning.
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The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation, a coalition of high-tech
companies, business organizations, scientific societies, and higher education
associations, was founded in 2004 to advocate greater federal investments
for basic research in the physical sciences and engineering. The group focuses
specifically on the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy
Office of Science, the Department of Defense research budget, and the National
Institute of Standards and Technology labs at the Department of Commerce.
Its members are: Agilent Technologies, AeA, ASTRA, American Chemical Society,
American Mathematical Society, American Physical Society, Association of
American Universities, Computing Research Association, Computing Technology
Industry Association, Computing Systems Policy Project, Council on Competitiveness,
Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Lucent, Materials Research Society, Microsoft, National
Association of Manufacturers, NASULGC, The Science Coalition, Semiconductor
Industry Association, Southeastern Universities Research Association, and
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