An investment in R&D is an investment in America's future

America is fighting a public health and economic crisis that will continue to wreak tragic devastation for generations if left unanswered. Millions of Americans are struggling to make ends meet as these twin crises expose fault lines in our economic infrastructure. In the face of this uncertainty, we must rise to the challenge, press forward, and develop solutions that are designed not just for short term relief, but also for rebuilding our economy and propelling resilient job growth.

America’s researchers, scientists, inventors and innovators are one of our nation’s best tools for overcoming the public health issues before us. They are also the spark that will help boost energy innovation, improve our infrastructure, tackle climate change and ensure our manufacturing base remains at the cutting edge.

Long before COVID hit our shores, we both have championed various policies reflecting the belief that boosting innovation has a powerful multiplier effect on our economy and improves the lives of Americans. In Congress, we have both put forward legislation to push America’s cutting edge energy technologies forward, from the Wind Energy Research and Development Act that would create clean energy jobs and increase economic opportunity in rural areas, to the Energy Sector Innovation Credit that would incentivize American ingenuity and help emerging energy technologies succeed in the marketplace.


We both believe in the importance of a healthy, competitive private sector where smart federal incentives can help spur investments into the next wave of clean innovations. It’s an essential piece of any effective innovation agenda, but it must be paired with comprehensive federal support for research and development.

The simple fact is that federal R&D has long served as a foundation for many of America’s most transformative innovations, whether developing a coronavirus vaccine, providing early-stage research and development of telecommunications tools including the internet, mobile phones, RADAR and GPS, or pushing the new and developing horizons of advanced energy research to make our energy infrastructure the best in the world. Combining increases in federal investments in energy R&D with smart incentives will help rebuild our economy back stronger than ever.

How do we know this? A new PricewaterhouseCoopers report commissioned by Bill Gates-founded Breakthrough Energy emphasizes just how significant the economic impact of research and development can be.

First, federal R&D investments are a proven job creator. In 2018, America’s investments in this area supported 1.6 million jobs — not just researchers and scientists who receive direct funding, but hundreds of thousands of people employed to support this work, from agriculture to retail to manufacturing sectors. For every job created directly from public R&D investment, an average of 2.7 more are created from indirect impacts.

R&D is also an economic engine. In 2018, federal R&D spending added nearly $200 billion in value for our national economy and $39 billion in federal and state tax income.


The jobs created from federal investments in energy R&D are not the kind that are likely to move offshore, and they generally pay well. In fact, jobs directly created by federal R&D investment pay 80 percent more than average while jobs indirectly created pay around 24 percent more. Especially in times of economic turmoil, that is the kind of broad job creation that builds a stronger, more resilient economy — not just for the wealthiest, but for all Americans.

According to the Breakthrough Energy report, federal R&D investments have supported 82,180 jobs in our state, New York, in 2018. Unlike some types of investment, these jobs aren’t limited to any one region or type of community.

We see that impact firsthand in the districts we serve, where research efforts by the University at Albany, RPI, Cornell University and institutions like them support employment, innovation and economic opportunity across our regions. As all of us work to rebuild our lives and communities over the coming years, we can and should build on these successes all over the country.

The benefits of federal R&D go far beyond immediate economic impacts, driving countless new patents, medicines, inventions and vaccines that would not exist otherwise.

In addition to policy incentives that support entrepreneurship and help ensure new technologies can reach the market, we can dramatically increase innovation across the country by boosting federal R&D funding. Taxpayers entrust us to use federal resources wisely, so why not spend it on the investments that generate the greatest economic and societal benefits? These new advancements will contribute to the wellbeing of all Americans.

Regardless of party politics, we should all want our economy to flourish. Congress can lead the fight against this virus and its economic damage by investing in a stronger future for all Americans.

Congressman Paul D. Tonko represents New York’s 20th District and serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee, the Science, Space and Technology Committee and the Natural Resources Committee. Congressman Tom ReedTom ReedDemocrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Bipartisan lawmakers call for expedited diabetes research The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Dems push McConnell on COVID-19 relief; Grassley contracts COVID-19 MORE represents New York's 23rd District, serves on the Ways and Means Committee, and co-chairs the House Problem Solvers Caucus.