U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), chair of the Commerce Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation, and Export Promotion, and subcommittee ranking member George LeMieux (R-FL), introduced legislation today to promote innovation and drive competitiveness in universities across the United States. The bipartisan American Innovation Act of 2010 directs the National Science Foundation (NSF) to encourage higher education institutions to implement programs and strategies focused on research and development. Klobuchar also joined Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) in introducing the National Competitiveness and Innovation Strategy of 2010 Act, which calls for the creation of a national economic competitive strategy.
"Our universities are incubators for innovative ideas that lead to new technologies, new products, and new jobs," Klobuchar said. "The National Science Foundation is instrumental in supporting research and devolvement of new technologies in our academic institutions. We need to make innovation a driving force of a national plan to increase our economic competitiveness."
"Staying ahead of the curve in science and technology is crucial to playing a leading role in the global market," LeMeiux said. "Encouraging the private sector to coordinate and collaborate with universities implementing innovative research programs is a natural way to support the talent of tomorrow. This will help ensure Federally-funded research translates into marketable new technologies, products, and patents. It will also address some of the concerns regarding the "valley of death' small and medium-size businesses face when trying to secure financing to bridge the gap between innovation and commercialization."
The Klobuchar-LeMieux legislation would help implement various measures that support innovation through the NSF. Specifically, the legislation would:
* Require higher education institutions that receive NSF grants to submit annual reports describing the institution's strategy for commercializing innovations. The reports will be posted on the NSF Web site and will include an implementation plan and summary of resulting commercialization efforts.
* Allows universities to use up to five percent of grant amounts toward patent applications for inventions generated by the research.
* Expand PhD fellowships by allowing NSF to match industry donations for fellowship programs.
* Direct National Academy of Sciences to study the best ways to measure the potential impact of federally funded research on society, such as the commercialization applications, the quality of research publications, and the ability to secure outside funding.
* Establish a loan guarantee program for small businesses seeking to commercialize products, patents, and ideas that emerge from NSF grant-funded projects.
The Klobuchar-Lemieux bill is included in the AMERICA COMPETES Reauthorization Act that the Senate Commerce Committee passed today.
The NSF funds research for more than 2,000 colleges, universities, K-12 school systems, businesses, informal science organizations, and other research organizations throughout the United States. The NSF accounts for almost one-fourth of all federal support given to academic institutions for basic research and receives almost 40,000 proposals projects each year.
The Warner-Klobuchar National Competitiveness and Innovation Strategy Act would require the Secretary of Commerce to conduct a comprehensive study of the current economic competitiveness and innovative capacity of the United States and to develop a national economic competitiveness strategy.