Feb. 16 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The Task Force on the Future
of American Innovation, a coalition of high-tech industry,
scientific societies, and higher education associations,
warned today that the United States is in danger of
losing its leadership role in science and innovation,
a position it has held with a firm grip since the
end of World War II.
Business and academic
leaders, speaking at the National Press Club in Washington,
D.C. today, identified the weakening federal commitment
to invest in science and research as a root cause
of the problem -- and as a necessary part of the solution.
They pointed to a
set of benchmarks in such areas as education, workforce,
ideas, and research investment in which other regions
and nations, particularly the rapidly developing economies
of Asia, are sharply pursuing the U.S., and may soon
catch up. They reminded policymakers that leadership
in these fields has been critical to the country's
economic strength and national security.
"We are and remain
the world's leader in innovation," said John
Engler, National Association of Manufacturers president
and former governor of Michigan. "But we do not
enjoy that status by divine right, and we cannot assume
that we are safely ahead of the world. Other countries
are climbing the technology ladder just as eagerly
as we are. The only way the U.S. can continue to create
high-wage, high value-added jobs is to innovate faster
than the rest of the world. Federally funded, peer
reviewed, and patented scientific advances are essential
to innovation. So we shortchange research at our peril."
Craig Barrett, Chief
Executive Officer of Intel Corporation, added, "The
competitiveness of the U.S. economy and its technological
leadership depend on our companies, universities,
and research institutions having access to the world's
leading talent. U.S. employers are being forced to
look overseas, as they face shortages of qualified
technically trained talent in the U.S. As research
goes, so goes the future. If this trend continues,
new technologies, and the constellation of support
industries surrounding them, will increasingly develop
overseas, not here."
Examples of benchmarks
identified by the group included the following:
-- The proportion
of U.S.-citizens in science and engineering (S&E)
graduate studies within the U.S. is declining. From
1994 to 2001, graduate S&E enrollment in the U.S.
declined by 10 percent for U.S. citizens but increased
by 25 percent for foreign-born students. In 2001 approximately
57 percent of all S&E postdoctoral positions at
U.S. universities were held by foreign- born scholars.
-- There are rapidly
increasing retirements from science and engineering
(S&E) jobs, leading to a potential shortage in
the S&E labor market. For example, more than half
of those with S&E degrees in the workforce are
age 40 or older. Unless more domestic college-age
students choose to pursue degrees in critical S&E
fields, there is likely to be a major shortage in
the high-tech talent required by the U.S. defense
industry, key federal research and national defense
agencies (e.g. the Department of Defense, Department
of Energy and NASA), and the national laboratories.
-- The U.S. share
of S&E papers published worldwide declined from
38 percent in 1988 to 31 percent in 2001. Europe and
Asia are responsible for the bulk of growth in scientific
papers in recent years. U.S. output was passed by
Western Europe in the mid-nineties, and Asia's share
of the total is rapidly growing.
Regarding the trends
for students, Nils Hasselmo, President of the Association
of American Universities, said, "The U.S. may
be about to experience a significant decline in the
number of scientists and engineers it will have available
to maintain, and further strengthen, its innovative
capacity - just as international competition is picking
up unprecedented strength. It's bad news for American
universities and industry. And it's bad news for our
nation's future economic and national security. If
the federal government does not recommit itself to
robust funding of research in these areas, we will
lose students, and our nation will surely suffer."
rely on the capabilities of highly skilled people
to create new knowledge and ideas," added Diana
Hicks, Chair of the School of Public Policy at the
Georgia Institute of Technology. "European and
Asian knowledge creation is dynamic. It's growing
fast. When they occupy more room at the top, it leaves
less room for us. As the still leading innovative
nation in the world, we could ignore this. However,
to the extent that we are concerned for our economic
future, we must develop our innovative capabilities
to their fullest."
"It is easy to
ignore long-term needs because of pressures from short-term
needs," said Burton Richter, Nobel Prize-winning
physicist and Paul Pigott Professor in the Physical
Sciences at Stanford University, in a written statement.
"We have been able to get away with it for decades
because we were so far ahead of the rest of the world.
But the rest of the world is catching up. The foundations
of new technological products now generally start
with laboratory breakthroughs achieved by scientists
conducing government funded long-term research at
universities and national labs. However, as a fraction
of GDP, such funding has been declining for decades
- a bipartisan failure of vision. Only strong federal
investment can ensure the healthy research enterprise
that is essential to our innovation future."
Other benchmarks cited
by the group included:
-- Within the U.S.,
federal funding of basic research in engineering and
physical sciences has experienced little to no growth
over the last thirty years. As a percentage of GDP,
funding for physical science research has been in
a thirty-year decline. In addition, since the 1980's,
there has been a shift in the source of funding for
research and development (R&D). U.S. private sector
investment in R&D now far exceeds federal investment
in R&D, providing over 68 percent of all domestic
R&D. However, private funding tends to focus on
short-term results. Of these private funds, 71 percent
were for development, not basic research.
-- The U.S. share
of worldwide high-tech exports has been in a 20-year
decline. From 1980 until 2001 the U.S. share fell
from 31 percent to 18 percent. At the same time, the
global share for China, South Korea, and other emerging
Asian countries increased from just 7 percent to 25
-- Asian countries
are investing significantly in nanotechnology, and
may have already surpassed the U.S. in this promising
area of research. For example, Small Times reported
last year: "Japan's nanotechnology budget for
fiscal 2004 rose 3.1 percent to $875 million, according
to Japan's Council for Science and Technology Policy.
Meanwhile, the two main government ministries responsible
for about 90 percent of the country's nanotechnology
research programs are both seeing their budgets increased."
Council on Competitiveness
President Deborah Wince-Smith noted, "As the
Council's 15-month National Innovation Initiative
and report, Innovate America, have demonstrated along
with the research of many others, innovation has been
the principal driver of U.S. GDP and productivity
growth and a rising standard of living for the past
50 years. America's economic and political standing
are fundamentally bound up in our capacity as a society
to innovate, and we now face much more serious competitive
challenges from new centers of innovation across an
increasingly interconnected planet.
She added, "The
benchmarks that we are releasing today demonstrate
the tremendous effort and focus that other countries
are putting into science, technology and innovation.
And they also show that many of the baseline indicators
of U.S. innovation are not headed in the right direction.
The result is that our global innovation leadership
is being challenged. The policies, stimuli and management
approaches on which we've relied in the past are no
longer sufficient to sustain innovation leadership
in the 21st century."
The document listing
the benchmarks -- entitled "The Knowledge Economy:
Is the United States Losing Its Competitive Edge?"
-- can be found on the task force's Web site, http://www.futureofinnovation.org.
The Task Force on
the Future of American Innovation, a coalition of
high-tech companies, business organizations, scientific
societies, and higher education associations, was
founded in 2004 to advocate greater federal investments
for basic research in the physical sciences and engineering.
The group focuses specifically on the National Science
Foundation, the Department of Energy Office of Science,
the Department of Defense research budget, and the
National Institute of Standards and Technology labs
at the Department of Commerce.
Its members are: Agilent
Technologies, AeA, ASTRA, American Chemical Society,
American Mathematical Society, American Physical Society,
Association of American Universities, Computing Research
Association, Computing Technology Industry Association,
Computing Systems Policy Project, Council on Competitiveness,
Hewlett-Packard, IEEE-USA, Intel, Lucent, Materials
Research Society, Microsoft, National Association
of Manufacturers, NASULGC, The Science Coalition,
Semiconductor Industry Association, Southeastern Universities
Research Association, and Texas Instruments.
© 2005 U.S. Newswire