Pryor: "American Ingenuity Has Lifted Up Our Country and Can Do It Again"
U.S. Senator Mark Pryor today announced that four key initiatives he has spearheaded to improve America's competitiveness and encourage economic growth have passed the Senate unanimously. His provisions, accepted as part of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, must now be passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.
The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act sets the stage for economic growth by committing federal resources to schools and private sector businesses seeking advancements in science, technology, engineering and math. Pryor's provisions complement the legislation by promoting science parks, organizing federal prize competitions, incorporating lessons of entrepreneurship and innovation into a student's education, and coordinating federal efforts to promote advanced manufacturing.
"America's greatness has always stemmed from the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of our citizens," Pryor said. "By investing in science education and research and giving businesses the resources they need to advance new technologies, we can boost our global competitiveness, jumpstart our economy, and lay the foundation for the next great idea. I applaud the Senate for coming together to approve this bipartisan legislation. American ingenuity has lifted up our country and can do it again."
Promoting Science Parks
Pryor's initiative to promote science parks was included as part of the underlying legislation. It mirrors the Building a Stronger America Act, legislation he introduced in 2009 to construct or expand science parks, which seek to encourage new startup businesses, generate student interest in science and technology fields, and promote relationships between universities and industry. Specifically, the provision allows the Secretary of Commerce to guarantee up to 80 percent of loans for the construction of science parks. The bill would also provide grants for the development of feasibility studies as well as plans for the construction of new, or expansion of existing, science parks.
Science parks improve the economic base of a region and state. According to the Association of University Research Parks (AURP), science parks contribute over $31 billion to North America's economy annually. For example, 31 organizations are affiliated with the Arkansas Research and Technology Park at the University of Arkansas, employing more than 350 individuals at an average salary of $63,277. The Park is making scientific breakthroughs in areas that include energy, electronics and photonics, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and "green" products and techniques.
Incentivizing Innovation through Prizes
The COMPETE Act also includes legislation introduced by Pryor in June, dubbed the Reward Innovation in America Act. It authorizes federal agencies to hold competitions with monetary prizes in order to encourage innovation in basic and applied research, technology development, and prototype demonstration that advance the mission of an agency. Currently, only a few federal agencies have limited authority to hold competitions.
Incorporating Innovation and Entrepreneurship into STEM Activities
A major goal of the COMPETE Act is to expand the talent pool of students interested in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM areas. It reauthorizes investments in teacher recruitment and training in STEM subject matters and programs that encourage students to pursue advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math. Pryor's amendment, accepted into the final package, requires lessons in innovation and entrepreneurship to be taught as part of STEM education activities. He believes students need to understand how to take a great idea to the lab and then advance it to the marketplace.
Coordination of Advanced Manufacturing Investments
The legislation also includes Pryor's provision to improve the coordination of federal dollars for advanced manufacturing research and development (R&D). Specifically, it calls for the National Science and Technology Council to conduct a one-year study that identifies goals and priorities for R&D programs and addresses challenges in those programs that hinder progress. In addition, the study will provide a strategic plan for coordinating R&D resources, including ways to encourage public-private partnerships.