U.S. Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a full committee hearing titled “Leveraging the U.S. Science and Technology Enterprise" on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, at 10:00 a.m.
Witnesses have been asked to testify about ways to improve the roles of the federal government, private sector, and academia in science and technology research and development, STEM education and workforce opportunities, and the application of research and development to commercial uses. The hearing will also inform the efforts of the Commerce Committee’s bipartisan Innovation and Competitiveness Working Group, led by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.). The working group is preparing legislation directing science and technology policy last authorized by the America COMPETES Acts.
- Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, Vice Chair, National Science Board
- Dr. Jeannette Wing, Corporate Vice President for Research, Microsoft
- Dr. Robert D. Atkinson, President, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation
- Dr. David Munson, Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering, College of Engineering, University of Michigan
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
10:00 a.m. ET
Full Committee Hearing
Senate Russell Building 253
Witness testimony, opening statements, and a livestream will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
Chairman John Thune
"Good morning, I welcome all our witnesses to today’s hearing, which presents a good opportunity to discuss ways to improve the efforts of the federal government, the private sector, and academia in R&D; STEM education initiatives; and technology transfer of scientific research to commercial applications.
"The Committee has jurisdiction over important federal science agencies, including the National Science Foundation, or NSF, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, or OSTP, and the Committee has been actively developing legislative proposals to confront the challenges associated with advancing the U.S. Science and Technology Enterprise in our budget environment.
"The good news is that, among individual countries, the United States is still the largest investor in public and private R&D, comprising 27 percent of the global R&D total in 2013 according to the National Science Board. But China is catching up, with 20 percent of the global total.
"While we could hope for more resources, tough budget realities underscore the importance of developing policy solutions that maximize our federal investments so we can stay competitive, get the biggest bang for our buck, and leverage even more private sector resources to expand the reach of our R&D. This Committee has been active on this front.
"Last year, in consultation with Ranking Member Nelson, we established an Innovation and Competitiveness Working Group of the Commerce Committee to inform efforts to craft legislation to reauthorize science and technology R&D policies previously directed under the America COMPETES Acts. We asked Senators Gardner and Peters to lead this Working Group, and we are appreciative of their sustained efforts over many months to help develop consensus-based policy solutions that could comprise a bipartisan Commerce Committee product.
"The Working Group convened a series of candid, bipartisan discussions to gather input from the U.S. science and research community regarding federal R&D policy priorities. The roundtable format of these meetings allowed for a free-flowing discussion among key stakeholders.
"These roundtable meetings focused on the topics of “Maximizing the Impact of Basic Research,” “STEM Education and Workforce Issues,” and “Research Commercialization and Technology Transfer.”
"We had broad participation by research universities, government advisory bodies, and non-profit research organizations in the informal discussion with Senators. Members of the public and interested groups were also invited and encouraged to submit input on the topics via email, with over 250 emailed submissions received on these three topics.
"Common themes arising from the roundtables included support for continued investment by the federal government in basic research, as well as encouragement of wider participation in STEM subjects; stronger partnerships among government, the private sector, and academia that could better leverage discoveries emerging from our research universities to drive innovation; and the importance of minimizing barriers and improving incentives for universities and the private sector to better maximize the scientific and economic return on limited federal research resources.
"The Committee’s Working Group is developing bipartisan legislation drawing on the input received from the roundtables and stakeholder feedback, related bills introduced by members of the Commerce Committee and others, and policy recommendations made by entities such as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, and the National Academy of Sciences. We are hopeful the bill will be ready in the coming days.
"Again, I thank the witnesses for being here today and I look forward to hearing about policy ideas that can leverage our science and technology enterprise, such as improved public-private partnerships, reduction of administrative burdens, and improved strategic planning of the federal R&D investment.
"We have a distinguished list of witnesses from academia, the private sector, and government advisory bodies testifying before the Committee today.
• "Dr. Droegemeier joins us having just finished his term as Vice Chair of the National Science Board this past Friday.
• "Dr. Wing has served as Corporate Vice President for Microsoft Research as well as at NSF, and contributed to a recent report published by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences entitled “Restoring the Foundation.”
• "Dr. Atkinson’s organization, ITIF, has published numerous recommendations related to tech policy, and both he and Dr. Droegemeier previously participated in our Working Group roundtables on STEM and commercialization.
• "Finally, Dr. Munson joins us from the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering, where he has helped translate university research into commercial applications, including at his own company, InstaRecon.
"I welcome our distinguished panel and now invite your testimony."
Sen. Gary Peters
Thank you Mr. Chairman, and thank you for the committee’s focus on the very important issue of the U.S. research enterprise. I would like to thank all the witnesses for taking the time to share their expertise with us today, and I would especially like to welcome Dr. David Munson, Dean of Engineering at the University of Michigan.
Like many of you, I grew up during the Apollo era, inspired by Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon and mesmerized by the launch of the 36 story tall Saturn Five rocket he took to get there.
But the impacts of the space program reached beyond inspiration – to growing the economy and improving the security of our nation. In fact, as much as half of the economic growth in the United States over the last 50 years is attributable to advances in science and technology. These innovations lead to the founding of global companies, and established the United States as the international leader in innovation.
But today, the picture is troubling. The United States is quickly losing ground in the global marketplace. We are spending less on science, research, and education while our competitors are spending more.
Over the last year I have been honored to join my colleague, Senator Cory Gardner, in examining the issue of American competitiveness, and policy solutions to re-assert America’s place internationally.
Last year we held three roundtables on innovation and competitiveness. These forums examined a variety of topics centered around the role of federal R&D, building a STEM workforce, and improving commercialization of federally-funded research. The working group received hundreds of inputs from industry, academia, science organizations, and economic development organizations on policies to improve the American innovation ecosystem.
Experts from the scientific community, industry, academia, nonprofits and economic development organizations agree that modest, sustained and predictable increases in federal research and development investments are critical to ensuring the economic competitiveness of the United States moving forward.
The community voiced support for continued investment by the federal government in basic research while providing opportunities to commercialize that research where appropriate.
We heard that the United States must improve participation in STEM among women and underrepresented minorities. These groups represent the largest untapped talent pool to fulfill the shortage of qualified STEM workers.
We also heard that reducing administrative burdens on researchers could increase significantly the scientific and economic return on federal research investment.
Some expressed that stronger partnerships are needed among government, the private sector, and academia in order to better capitalize on discoveries emerging from our research universities. Coming from the great state of Michigan that’s a need that really resonates with me.
I firmly believe that if we want to continue to be a leader in the global economy we need to make things. That’s something we do pretty well in Michigan – we make things. From large manufacturers to small mom and pop businesses – the amazing industrial base that once dominated the global auto industry is now being retooled with advanced technologies to build things like space vehicles and renewable energy systems.
We need to double down on that type of transformation here in the United States.
We also have some of the world’s greatest research universities in Michigan. These Universities – and others across the nation - are investigating and developing the next generation technologies that will keep America relevant in the global marketplace. Investments in advanced manufacturing, for example, will "lift all ships," creating new capabilities that can increase commercial productivity.
Simply put -- science and technology are critical to American competitiveness. And we need to focus on the entire ecosystem - from STEM - or STEAM - to basic research - to application and commercialization - to the inspiration that results from ambitious endeavors like exploring space and the other frontiers of science. That whole ecosystem of discovery and innovation is critical to American competitiveness.
These are big challenges that require everyone -- democrats and republicans, the federal government and state and local governments, industry and academia – to work together on solutions.
The discussion today will continue to inform that legislation, and I look forward to the input of the witnesses.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Witness Panel 1
Dr. Kelvin DroegemeierVice ChairNational Science Board
Dr. Jeannette WingCorporate Vice President for ResearchMicrosoft
Dr. Robert D. AtkinsonPresidentInformation Technology and Innovation Foundation
Dr. David MunsonRobert J. Vlasic Dean of EngineeringCollege of Engineering, University of Michigan