By Sens. John Thune and Cory Gardner - 07/07/15 05:53 PM EDT
For decades, the United States has remained at the forefront of game-changing innovation and scientific accomplishment, far ahead of all other nations. But countries around the world are actively seeking to compete with the next generation of American innovators and scientists. As China prioritizes major research and development projects, and India graduates thousands more scientists and engineers, the U.S. faces significant challenges in the global marketplace.
These challenges are precisely why the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation is announcing it will convene an innovation and competitiveness working group in order to help craft legislation that would authorize science and technology policies previously directed under the America Competes Act. We’re excited to gather consensus ideas among committee members about how to enhance our research and development (R&D) enterprise, and improve science and technology policies at government agencies like the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, among other agencies.
Some of the ideas that will be discussed may require new approaches because maintaining U.S. competitiveness is more than just a funding number for research and development. We must ensure that students entering the workforce have the tools and skills necessary to fill positions at high-tech companies and innovative research centers throughout the nation. That means strengthening our education efforts in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, often referred to as STEM. Implementing proven and effective STEM education policies and programs will provide businesses with a more highly skilled and prepared workforce, and, as a result, improve our country’s economic position in the global marketplace.
Life-saving inventions, such as the artificial heart, the MRI, and kidney dialysis, as well as fiber optics, bar coding, and the Internet, which help drive our 21st century economy, all originated in the laboratories and minds of U.S.-based innovators. Partnerships between universities and the private sector have transformed nearly every sector of our economy and given Americans greater national security and a higher standard of living. We must continue to ensure that innovation centers across the country, such as Silicon Valley in California, the Research Triangle in North Carolina, and the Silicon Flatirons in Colorado, continue to drive the U.S. economy and keep our country atop the world when it comes to cutting-edge research and technology. There is also groundbreaking, fundamental physics research being conducted in South Dakota at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in collaboration with national labs and international partners. As the innovation and competitiveness working group moves forward, we will seek out solutions that best promote STEM education, U.S. research and development, and innovation and technology transfer. When America competes, the world benefits — and we are getting to work.
Thune is South Dakota’s senior senator, serving since 2005. He is chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and sits on the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and the Finance committees. Gardner is Colorado’s junior senator, serving since 2015. He sits on the Commerce, Science and Transportation; Energy and Natural Resources; Foreign Relations; and Small Business and Entrepreneurship committees.