Senator John Ensign (R-Nev.) will preside.
Witnesses will be announced when available.
Senator John Ensign Opening Statement Hearing on Innovation and Competitiveness Legislation March 15, 2006
Welcome. Thank you for attending this Full Committee hearing on innovation and competitiveness legislation. In addition, I would like to thank Senator Stevens for allowing me to Chair this hearing on a very important topic for America’s future.
Today the world is becoming dramatically more interconnected and competitive. In order to remain globally competitive, the United States must continue to lead the world’s innovation. Innovation fosters the new ideas, technologies, and processes that lead to better jobs, higher wages, and a higher standard of living.
Unfortunately, in the disciplines that foster innovation in the 21st Century – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – America is steadily losing its global edge. The trouble signs are numerous. Less than 6 percent of high school seniors plan to pursue engineering degrees, down from 36 percent from a decade ago. In 2000, only 17 percent of undergraduate degrees earned in the United States were in the hard sciences. In the same year 56 percent of China’s undergraduate degrees were in the hard sciences. In 2004, China graduated 500,000 engineers and India graduated approximately 200,000 engineers. The United States, by contrast, graduated less than 70,000 engineers. If present trends continue, 90 percent of all the world’s scientists and engineers will be living in Asia by 2010.
We must address these long-term competitive challenges to America’s economic vitality and national security now or risk losing our essential leadership position on innovation.
The National Innovation Act that I introduced with Senator Lieberman in December 2005 will help America meet these interconnected challenges. The legislation responds to the recommendations contained in the National Innovation Initiative Report, entitled Innovate America. This report was circulated last year by the Council on Competitiveness. The Council is a distinguished, non-partisan group of leaders from industry and academia. In responding to the Council’s report, this legislation focuses on three primary areas of importance to maintaining and improving United States’ innovation in the 21st Century: (1) research investment, (2) increasing science and technology talent, and (3) developing an innovation infrastructure.
I am a fiscal conservative, and current Federal budget constraints will require prioritization of spending. New programs must be funded through existing funds or through identifiable funding offsets whenever possible. I look forward to working with Senator Lieberman, members of this committee, and other cosponsors in this effort.
I believe, however, that increased support of basic research through should be a national priority. Accordingly, my bill would increase the national commitment to basic research by nearly doubling research funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) by Fiscal Year 2011. NSF plays a critical role in underwriting basic research at colleges, universities, and other institutions throughout our nation. NSF-supported basic research in chemistry, physics, nanotechnology, genomics, and semiconductor manufacturing has brought about some of the most significant innovations of the last 20 years. For example, the World Wide Web, magnetic resonance imaging and fiber optics technology all emerged through basic research projects that received NSF funding.
Research supported by NSF accounts for approximately 40 percent of non-life-science basic research at U.S. academic institutions while representing less than 4 percent of the federal funding for research and development.
Because our nation’s long-term future economic strength depends in large part on the support we give to basic research projects now, the National Innovation bill also establishes the Innovation Acceleration Grants Program, which encourages federal agencies funding research in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to allocate at least 3% of their Research and Development (R&D) budgets to grants directed toward high-risk frontier research. All grants provided through this program will be assessed with metrics and no grants will be renewed unless the agency distributing the grant determines that all metrics have been satisfied.
In addition, the National Innovation bill addresses the need to encourage more American students from kindergarten through graduate school to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. Although scientists and engineers make up less than 5 percent of our population, they create up to 50 percent of our Gross Domestic Product. Especially as our current scientific workforce ages, we need to encourage more American students to pursue careers in these fields. The National Innovation bill does this by creating more graduate fellowships and graduate traineeships.
Today we are pleased to have one panel of witnesses here to testify on these important innovation and competitiveness issues.
Daniel K. InouyeSenator
By the broadest definition, our Committee is responsible for the economic and commercial health of the country. We have expertise that touches on fields of industry from telecommunications to transportation; from the safety of the home to the security of the homeland; and from marine containers to marine mammals. But at the end of the day, “science” is our middle name.
This hearing rightfully places our Committee at the center of the debate on how this nation will use technology and innovation to improve our national, economic competitiveness. Our Committee has particular expertise in science, technology, and economic development. We have a unique opportunity and responsibility to ensure that the United States remains strong and competitive in the face of emerging challenges from the rest of the world.
At today’s hearing, we will discuss many of the ideas embodied in several bills that have been introduced. This Committee should view those bills as a starting point.
Further, I believe this Committee should begin a bipartisan, Committee-wide effort to develop a Commerce Committee title that will be an integral part of any Senate competitiveness legislation. Each Subcommittee can and should make significant contributions to this bill. Our Members’ ideas and involvement will be essential as we develop and advance what I believe will be a forward-looking, comprehensive proposal.
Interestingly, ocean sciences have been absent from the competitiveness discussion thus far. Oceans are 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, yet they remain largely unexplored and under-researched. Our oceans present an astounding frontier for science and, I believe, an incredible source of inspiration for math and science students, or better yet, America’s future scientists.
Economic competitiveness is the essence of our Committee’s work, so I look forward to working with Chairman Stevens and the rest of my colleagues in what could be a remarkable endeavor for this Committee. Today’s discussion on innovation and competitiveness with this distinguished panel of witnesses is an appropriate starting point.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable Max BaucusU.S. SenatorMontana
The Honorable Joseph LiebermanU.S. SenatorConnecticut
Witness Panel 2
Dr. Craig BarrettChairman of the BoardIntel Corporation
Mr. Norman AugustineChairman of the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans CommitteeNational Aeronautics and Space Administration
Dr. John E. Kelly IIISenior Vice President of Technology and Intellectual PropertyIBM Corporation
Ms. Deborah Wince-SmithPresidentCouncil on Competitiveness