A renewed emphasis on research and development funding is needed from the government
The COVID-19 challenge has demonstrated again what has always been true — America must be the world leader when it comes to scientific research and innovation.
That’s why Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) recently proposed the “Endless Frontier Act” to create a renewed emphasis on research and development funding from the federal government. “We cannot allow,” Schumer and Young wrote, “our research capabilities to atrophy without undermining our global competitiveness and leaving our people vulnerable during a time of crisis.”
The senators’ actions show they are of the same mind as a number of their colleagues on both sides of the aisle, as a number of bills have been introduced this session designed to increase investments in critical innovation projects over the long-term. As the Task Force on American Innovation, we represent businesses, trade groups, research universities, and professional scientific organizations that support the principle behind these efforts – we need to increase federal investments in scientific research.
But our immediate economic recovery will only be accelerated by the research performed in our labs and universities, and Congress must take action now to provide the necessary funding to restart and complete the research that’s currently being delayed.
Each part of the innovation ecosystem plays a critical role. Federal investments in basic research at universities and national labs across the country, as well as in collaborations involving the private sector, lead to new and innovative products which benefit the whole country and, importantly, create new jobs.
As Congress considers future stimulus proposals, we urge lawmakers to acknowledge that America’s research universities are vital partners with the federal government in the fundamental work that contributes to America’s global leadership in technology and economic advancement.
Recently, leading research universities have asked Congress for support in the form of $26 billion in relief funding for the federal science agencies in the next COVID-19 bill. Why? While COVID-19 research to develop treatments, therapies, and a vaccine is in overdrive, most other research has been halted or significantly slowed due to the pandemic. Countless research projects are now on hold and have lost significant momentum. Researchers need supplemental funding to restart their projects, make sure the initial investment in their work is not squandered, and ensure the graduate students being trained to enter innovation-rich sectors of our economy are not abandoned.
Research relief funding has strong bipartisan backing; 182 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 33 U.S. senators have recognized the unprecedented disruption to research by signing letters supporting relief. The “Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE)” Act (HR 7308) was introduced in late June to address this sorely needed funding and regulatory relief. This funding would preserve the current taxpayer supported research investments. It would enable universities and other research performers to sustain their workforces and complete research projects disrupted by the pandemic. This will benefit the American economy now and in the future.
Federal research investments also help develop the skills needed by our nation’s workforce. More than half of the researchers supported by federal grants are students or trainees. These experts are essential for our nation to thrive, as they go on to take jobs in all 50 states, most in industry, and often make outsized contributions to both start-ups and established companies.
Despite the strong support in the House and Senate, to date research relief has not been funded, jeopardizing our ability to compete in a global economy. The stakes are high right now.
As Schumer and Senator Young put it, “investment in research pays off.”
David Isaacs is vice president of government affairs at the Semiconductor Industry Association and Kathleen Kingscott is vice president of strategic partnerships at IBM Research. They both serve on the Task Force on American Innovation.