Senate Commerce Committee Approves American Innovation and Competitiveness Act

May 18, 2006

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today approved S. 2802, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, by a vote of 21-0.

Senator John Ensign (R-Nev.), Chairman of the Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Technology, Innovation, and Competitiveness, introduced the bill, which was co-sponsored by Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Co-Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), and Committee Members Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), George Allen (R-Va.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). 

S. 2802 responds to recommendations contained in the Council on Competitiveness’ Innovate America Report and the National Academies’ Rising Above the Gathering Storm Report.  In responding to these reports, the legislation focuses on three primary areas of importance to maintaining and improving United States’ innovation in the 21st Century: increasing research investment, increasing science and technology talent, and developing innovation infrastructure.

The bill sets authorization levels for both the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  To increase the nation’s commitment to basic research, the bill increases authorized funding for NSF from $6.4 billion in Fiscal Year 2007 to $11.4 billion in Fiscal Year 2011.

The legislation authorizes NIST from approximately $640 million in Fiscal Year 2007 to $937 million by Fiscal Year 2011, and it establishes a Fiscal Year 2007 level of approximately $110 million for the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership program (MEP), which increases to $130 million in fiscal years 2008 through 2011.

In addition, the bill requires the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study to identify forms of risk that create barriers to innovation one year after enactment of the bill and every four years thereafter.  The study is intended to support research on the long-term value of innovation to the business community and to identify means to mitigate legal or practical risks presently associated with such innovation activities.  

Finally, the bill recognizes that ocean and atmospheric science and education will play a role in the effort to advance national innovation and competitiveness.  The legislation establishes a research and development program within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in coordination with NSF and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), specifically dedicated to ocean and atmospheric science and technology.  The bill also establishes related ocean and atmospheric science education programs.

S. 2802 also includes the following provisions: 

  • Establishes the President’s Council on Innovation and Competitiveness to develop a comprehensive agenda to promote innovation in the public and private sectors.  In consultation with the Office of Management and Budget, this Council would develop and use metrics to assess the impact of existing and proposed laws that affect innovation in the United States.
  • Establishes the Innovation Acceleration Grants Program to direct federal agencies that fund research in science and technology to set a goal to dedicate roughly eight percent of their Research and Development (R&D) budgets to grants directed toward high-risk frontier research.
  • Establishes an Aeronautics Institute for Research within NASA, as well as a Basic Research Executive Council to oversee the distribution and management of programs and resources engaged in support of basic research activity. 

Click here for a copy of the bill as reported.