Focusing attention on the importance of science and technology innovation to U.S. growth and competitiveness, The Hamilton Project, an initiative at the Brookings Institution, today released policy proposals to spur investments in innovation, research and the education of a highly skilled American workforce. The proposals were released on The Hamilton Project website ( www.hamiltonproject.org ) and will be presented tomorrow during a forum on “Promoting Opportunity and Growth through Science, Technology, and Innovation,” to be held at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.
Recognizing the important link between technological progress and U.S. economic growth, Peter Orszag, Michael Deich, Jason Bordoff and Rebecca Kahane, in a new Hamilton Project strategy paper, urge the government and the private sector to renew a commitment to technological innovation to maintain the nation’s competitive edge, particularly in the face of increased globalization and foreign competition in high-skill, high-wage jobs.
“To remain at the leading edge of the technological frontier,” notes Orszag, “the United States must make more workers literate in science and engineering, must embrace a redesigned system of national investments in scientific research, and must adopt more effective incentives for private sector firms to undertake R&D.”
In addition to the panel discussion with Hamilton Project and contributing authors, the December 5 forum will also feature a discussion on the importance of innovation for meeting the challenges of an economy fueled by rapid scientific and technological advancements. Hamilton Project Advisory Council Members and former Treasury Secretaries Robert E. Rubin and Lawrence H. Summers will be joined by William Brody, President of Johns Hopkins University; Michael Capellas, Former CEO of MCI and Compaq; and Harold Varmus, winner of the 1989 Nobel Prize for Medicine, former NIH Director, and currently President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, to discuss the impact of globalization on the high-skill and high-wage U.S. technology sector.
Rubin notes: “With more workers from China and India entering the global workforce, it will be important for U.S. workers to have access to the education and skills needed to compete in a knowledge economy. The proposals we’re highlighting offer some creative, pragmatic, ideas on how America can retain its competitive edge across the technology frontier.”
“Nothing is more important to U.S. prosperity, security or global leadership than assuring that the United States remains the global leader in scientific research,” adds Summers. “This will only happen if the Federal government, through its funding and its policies, creates the right environment for science and technology to flourish. On our current path, this is by no means guaranteed.”
Richard Freeman of Harvard University, noting the economic benefits that accrue when the U.S. remains at the forefront of technological advances, proposes new policies to increase the number of U.S. scientists and engineers. Noting that the number of National Science Foundation (NSF) fellowships has remained virtually unchanged since the 1960s, even as the number of science and engineering undergraduates has more than tripled, Freeman proposes tripling the number of NSF fellowships and increasing their value. His research shows that this would be an efficient way to increase the number of undergraduates who go on to graduate studies and a career in science, thereby strengthening the American scientific base.
A proposal to enhance public investment in research and development is underscored in a discussion paper by Thomas Kalil, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and special assistant to the chancellor for science and technology at the University of California at Berkeley. Kalil notes the effectiveness of inducement prizes, such as the recently awarded $10 million Ansari X Prize for human spaceflight, and suggests that government prizes for specific achievements in science and technology can be more effective at times than traditional government research grants. He notes that prizes are particularly useful when the government can define a research goal in concrete terms, but is uncertain about the mostly likely means to achieve it or who is in the best position to do so.
In that same spirit, The Hamilton Project announced its own prize for economic policy, “The Hamilton Project Economic Policy Innovation Prize,” to be awarded to select graduate and undergraduate students for innovative economic policy proposals focusing on education, health care, social insurance, science and technology, tax policy, energy, and saving policy. Students are asked to submit proposals by June 2007. The top undergraduate student will be awarded $10,000 and the top graduate student $15,000. Each will also be invited to present their policy proposals to The Hamilton Project Advisory Council. (For more information, log on to www.hamiltonproject.org .)
To ensure that individuals and firms have the right incentives to invest in innovation, Douglas Lichtman of the University of Chicago Law School proposes reforming the patent system. In recent years the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has approved an increasing number of patents that are overbroad or otherwise flawed. Nonetheless, the legal doctrine known as the presumption of validity obligates courts to defer to the PTO’s initial determination that a patent qualifies for protection. Lichtman proposes that the PTO allow applicants to choose between using the current review process and paying for a more rigorous process. The presumption of validity then would attach only to patents that survived either the more rigorous PTO review or another similarly rigorous process, such as a re-examination by the PTO or litigation before a court. Lichtman argues these changes would reduce both the incentive to file undeserved applications and the harm caused by any undeserved application that accidentally slipped through initial PTO review.
About The Hamilton Project ( www.hamiltonproject.org )
The Hamilton Project, named after the nation’s first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton, seeks to advance America’s promise of opportunity, prosperity, and growth. The Project’s economic strategy reflects a judgment that long-term prosperity is best achieved by making economic growth broad-based, by enhancing individual economic security, and by embracing a role for effective government in making needed public investments. Our strategy strikingly different from the theories driving current economic policy calls for fiscal discipline and for increased public investment in key growth-enhancing areas. The Project will put forward innovative policy ideas from leading economic thinkers throughout the United States ideas based on experience and evidence, not ideology and doctrine to introduce new, sometimes controversial, policy options into the national debate with the goal of improving our country’s economic policy.