All Say, “Yay AICA!”

2018-02-05T12:41:50+00:00 February 5, 2018|

What It Was

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held a hearing titled “One Year Later: The American Innovation and Competitiveness Act.”

Why It Matters

Since 2007, the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act (COMPETES Act, P.L. 110-69) has maintained and grown the American science and technology enterprise, which in turn secures our nation’s national security, public health, and economy. Its successor, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA, P.L. 114-329), which was signed into law one year ago, aims to improve scientific accountability, transparency in grant funding, agency coordination, and technology transfer. The committee invited key agency directors to testify on the law’s effectiveness.

Key Points

The AICA was intended to maximize basic research; advance public-private partnerships; enhance agency oversight; promote science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education; and increase research commercialization at the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and research and education programs managed by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The committee took the opportunity to revel in the bipartisanship that went into the original bill (e.g. roundtable discussions and stakeholder meetings) and voiced the need for continued cooperation on topics of science and research. Ranking Member Bill Nelson (FL) summarized, “Science should be a nonpartisan issue.”

Republicans and Democrats shared success stories from their states on projects or programs funded by NSF and NIST, and directors from both agencies added additional examples of how their agencies met the act’s goals of advancing public-private partnerships, promoting STEM education, and maximizing basic research.

Acting Chairman Cory Gardner (CO) wanted to know, “did we get anything wrong?” and if changes are needed to the law. Neither witness saw the need for modification and applauded Congress on the level of detail and clarification.

There was discussion on budget cuts, the disruption caused by funding the government through continuing resolutions, and international competitiveness. Dr. France Córdova (Director, NSF) stated that, “emphasis should be on investment in basic research because [research] is at the root of discovery, technology, and tech transfer. Before something can be applied, it has to be discovered, and that is where [federal investments] come in.”

Quotable

“Unless we dedicate more support to our nation’s research and development enterprise, we will lose out to competitors like China who are quickly working to displace the United States as the world’s greatest innovator.” – Acting Chairman Cory Gardner (CO)

“From satellite communications to cutting-edge fields like gene editing, the advancement of science has depended on a healthy investment in research by the federal government.” – Ranking Member Bill Nelson (FL)

“The AICA does not change the Foundation’s portfolio of investments or the way we do business – in research, education, infrastructure, and administration – rather, it enhances and strengthens it, and serves to codify how NSF invests in science, innovation, and education.” – Dr. France Córdova (Director, NSF)

“AICA changed the non-federal/federal cost sharing ratio for Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Centers and as a result, MEP Centers have increased partnering opportunities with manufacturers. NIST is proud of the positive impact it has had and of the improvements we have been able to make with the AICA authorization.” – Dr. Walter Copan (Under Secretary of Commerce, Standards and Technology and Director, NIST United States Department of Commerce)

Next Steps

This hearing was used as a check point to see how implementation of the law is progressing, and information gathered could be used on future legislation.

Find Out More

Watch the full hearing

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