U.S. lags behind Germany, Japan, South Korea, other nations in research intensity
Cantwell points to universities as key components of national R&D strategy
WASHINGTON, D.C.— U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today held a hearing on the “Endless Frontier Act” which seeks to enhance American competitiveness in the area of research and development.
“So today we're here to talk about America's competitiveness,” Chair Cantwell said. “Between 1996 and 2015, federally funded research led to over 1 trillion in economic growth, and millions of new jobs. Today federal investment in research and development is near its lowest point in 45 years when measured against GDP.”
Chair Cantwell cited increased competition from foreign nations as she made the case for a robust American investment in research and development.
“Other nations are ready to challenge our position on the world's innovation stage,” Chair Cantwell said. “So, since 2000, global R&D spending has risen more than 200%...while the United States has certainly contributed to that growth, we only spend about 2.8% of GDP on research and development, less than some of the big economies, like Germany, Japan and South Korea.”
Chair Cantwell praised the witnesses as a whole for their thoughtful testimony and emphasized the role of universities in advancing R&D and the importance of collaboration.
“I really love the underlying theme in a lot of the testimony in front of us,” Chair Cantwell said. “[U]niversities play such a key role in, I think, a distributed network of R&D that already exists in the United States and we should be playing off of that.” The Chair continued, saying, “You can have all the innovation in an information age and all the information, but if you don't collaborate it to get it implemented, then you're not going to innovate.”
During the hearing, Chair Cantwell also underscored two of her longstanding policy priorities, diversity in STEM education and workforce development.
“[We] need to do more in STEM. In 2019 women made up 48% of workers, but only 27% of STEM workers. And, as noted, COVID made that challenging, because many of these women were also the caregivers in their families.” The chair continued by noting that “doing the R&D without the STEM workforce will be a mistake. We need the workforce. The best research can't be implemented if we don't have the workforce.”