Lipinski Praises Congressional Passage of Bill to Boost American Innovation and Competitiveness, Create Jobs (December 16, 2016)

Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3) is praising the passage in the House and Senate of the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, S. 3084, which authorizes and revises a wide-range of federal science, research, and technology development programs.  These provisions apply to research programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, as well as government-sponsored research at universities and other institutions.  The bill is designed to boost American innovation and competitiveness, resulting in the creation of American jobs. 

Notably, the bill authorizes the Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program that teaches scientists how to turn their discoveries into entrepreneurial, job-producing businesses.  Language in the bill directs the expansion of I-Corps to additional federal agencies and academic institutions, as well as through state and local governments which can better support their economic development goals.  The new I-Corps authority also supports prototype or proof-of-concept development activities, which will better enable researchers to commercialize their innovations.

“I've been a strong supporter of the I-Corps program since it was first introduced by the NSF,” Rep. Lipinski said.  “I have helped it grow and have seen how successful it has been.  Programs like I-Corps get university and other federally-funded research translated more quickly into new products and new companies, creating American jobs and providing taxpayers a better return on their investment in science.”

“I-Corps has become the standard for entrepreneurship in the federal government, having trained over 1,000 of our country’s best scientists,” stated serial entrepreneur Steve Blank.  “From its inception, Congressman Lipinski was the visionary champion of I-Corps.  The American Innovation and Competitiveness Act extending I-Corps is one of the major accomplishments of the 114th Congress.”

S. 3084 also includes language that is based on Lipinski’s International Science and Technology Cooperation Act, HR 1156, which would establish a working group to coordinate international science and technology activities with both science agencies and the State Department.  Specifically, the bill directs the National Science and Technology Council at the White House to coordinate a U.S. strategy for international science and technology cooperation, which will help address key global challenges, including public health, national security, energy, and environmental matters. 

“By coordinating with international partners on scientific issues, we strengthen the U.S. scientific enterprise and promote the free exchange of ideas in other nations,” Lipinski stated.  “While many federal agencies are engaged with international partners on science and technology projects, there is a need to coordinate these projects across our government network and to identify opportunities for additional beneficial collaborations.”

The American Innovation and Competitiveness Act also includes legislation led by Lipinski that would expand and improve cyber security and related research programs at the NSF and NIST.  It expands requirements for cyber-related research to better counter computer-based threats to American voting systems, a response to concerns about foreign influence and tampering in the 2016 elections.  The bill also directs NIST to establish best practices for the protection of information systems from cyber intrusion and to raise public awareness about cyber threats.

In addition, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act makes improvements to the prize competition authority which Rep. Lipinski helped establish in 2010 via his bill in the GENIUS Act.  The prize competition authority enables the federal government to sponsor innovation competitions to seek public solutions to challenges such as cyber security, robotics, and drug overdose treatment, among countless other fields.  To date, over 700 competitions have been sponsored by federal agencies under this authority

The bill also expands a range of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs, including mentoring, apprenticeships, and support for informal STEM education opportunities.

 “As co-chair of the House STEM Education Caucus, I am pleased to see the progress that this bill makes in improving and expanding federal STEM education programs,” said Lipinski.  “I’ve worked hard to improve STEM education, as America’s economic future relies on a workforce well-educated in math, science, and engineering.  Informal science education – investing in museums such as the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago and other programs and institutions that excite children about a possible future in engineering and science fields – is something I’ve put a high priority on.”

Finally, the bill includes two other provisions that Congressman Lipinski has worked on to alleviate burdens or restrictions on federally funded scientific enterprises.  It includes provisions that reinforce the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) new and improved guidance on scientific conferences to remove unnecessary and harmful barriers to scientific collaboration created in the wake of a General Services Administration (GSA) scandal in 2012.  These restrictions had impeded scientists from attending conferences to present their work and learn more about the work of their peers. 

The bill also increases the threshold for federally-funded science programs at universities and other institutions for equipment procurement.  Currently, most research institutions only have to look for multiple bids on research equipment if that equipment costs over $10,000, but the OMB had reduced this to $3000 without explanation.  The American Innovation and Competitiveness Act sets the threshold to $10,000 and provides greater flexibility for research institutions to purchase critical equipment without multiple bids.

On the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Lipinski is the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Research and Technology, and also sits on the Subcommittee on Energy.