Local Commentary

Jim Moran

This week, House Democrats are taking the first of many steps during the 110th Congress to implement an Innovation Agenda that will spur economic growth and unleash the next generation of discovery.

The effort began nearly two years ago outside Washington in meetings with leaders and CEOs from many fields: academia, venture capital, and entrepreneurs from the high-tech, biotech, and telecommunications sectors who are creating the jobs of tomorrow. The agenda being advanced in the House involves partnerships with the private sector to invest in a workforce ready for global competition.  It will create a new generation of innovators; invest in federal research and development; spur affordable access to broadband; achieve energy independence; and provide small business with tools to encourage entrepreneurial innovation.

Three key pieces of the agenda are on the House floor this week. They include:

* H.R. 362, the “10,000 Teachers – Science and Math Scholarship Act” which will invest in 10,000 new science and math teachers, totaling some 25,000 over five years, by increasing the number of scholarships for students majoring in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields committed to pursuing teaching as a profession.

* H.R. 363, the “Sowing the Seeds Through Science and Engineering Act” which supports outstanding researchers in the early stages of their career through $80,000 per year National Science Foundation and Department of Energy grants. It also establishes a presidential innovation award to stimulate scientific and engineering advances that are in the national interest.

* H.R. 1332, the “Small Business Lending Improvements Act” strengthens access to capital programs for U.S. small businesses by making 7(a) loans more economical for small businesses. It also establishes a rural lender outreach program and assists veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with securing funding to start or expand their firms by eliminating borrower and lender fees and increasing to 90 percent the guaranteed portion of loans made to veteran-owned small businesses.

These measures were developed based on the recommendations of the National Academies recent “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” report, which lists the top 10 actions that policy-makers must take to ensure that the U.S. remains competitive in the global economy. The report found that the U.S. would lose its competitive advantage if Congress did not act in the very near future. The Senate is currently working on companion legislation to the House Innovation Agenda and the President has signaled his support. I am optimistic real, long overdue progress on our nation’s innovation agenda is on its way.