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FYI Number 172: December 9, 2005

National Summit on Competitiveness

"The National Summit on Competitiveness has one fundamental and urgent message: if trends in U.S. research and education continue, our nation will squander its economic leadership, and the result will be a lower standard of living for the American people." So began a six-page Statement released on December 6 at a half-day meeting in Washington of 63 senior-level officials from high technology corporations, government, academia, and associations.

"The National Summit on Competitiveness: Investing in U.S. Innovation" was instigated by House Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA) at the urging of Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI). At a Capitol Hill briefing on May 12, Wolf was joined by several of his colleagues and senior association officials to highlight a provision that had been inserted in a supplemental appropriations bill stating: "the Secretary of Commerce shall convene a national conference on science, technology, trade and manufacturing." Wolf explained, "our hope is that the conference will bring together the nation's best and brightest to help develop a blueprint for the future of American science and innovation. It also will look at where there has been slippage and why, and what needs to be done to reverse the trend" (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2005/080.html .)

There were public and private sessions at Tuesday's summit. The 90-minute public session was convened by John Engler, President of the National Association of Manufacturers, who set the tone for this session. He cited previous reports highlighting problems in America's competitive position and recommended policy actions. Engler outlined his concerns about shortages in the future science and engineering workforce. Pointing to science and technology advancements in India and China, Engler told Summit participants that "The United States of America is in a race." Engler's views were supported by other speakers during the plenary session.

The purpose of the Summit was not to produce a new report, but to call attention to previously issued reports. The Statement released that day outlined three major Tasks and implementation steps, which are as follows:

"Task One: Revitalize Fundamental Research
- "Increase the federal investment in long-term basic research by 10 percent a year over the next seven years with focused attention to the physical sciences, engineering, and mathematics.
- "Allocate at least 8 percent of the budgets of federal research agencies to discretionary funding focused on catalyzing high-risk, high-payoff research."

"Task Two: Expand the Innovation Pool in the United States
- "By 2015, double the number of bachelor's degrees awarded annually to U.S. students in science, math, and engineering, and increase the number of those students who become K-12 science and math teachers.
- "Reform U.S. immigration policies to enable the education and employment of individuals from around the world with the knowledge and skills in science, engineering, technology, and mathematics to boost the competitive advantage of the United States.
- "Provide incentives for the creation of public-private partnerships to encourage U.S. students at all levels to pursue studies and/or careers in science, math, technology, and engineering."

"Task Three: Lead the World in the Development and Deployment of Advanced Technologies
- "Provide focused and sustained funding to address national technology challenges in areas that will ensure national security and continued U.S. economic leadership, including nanotechnology, high-performance computing, and energy technologies."

Following the plenary session which ended at 11:30, the Summit participants went to various breakout sessions with several cabinet secretaries that were closed to the public. A press conference was held from 2:30 until 3:00, at which point the Summit adjourned.

The full text of the Summit's Statement and its participants can be found at http://usinnovation.org/

One of the major objectives of this Summit was to convey to the Bush Administration the wide-spread concern there is about America's future competitiveness. The extent to which this objective was met will be indicated by President Bush's FY 2007 budget request for science and technology programs that will be sent to Congress in early February.

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
fyi@aip.org
301-209-3095

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