U.S. innovation system endangered by weak policies, strategies, new report says

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A new report maintains that policies and strategies that support and nurture innovation in the United States are weakening - a trend that could result in a decline of the nation's competitiveness on the global stage.

The report (pdf) by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation focuses mainly on the national innovation system, which is essentially all the public and private economic, political and social institutions that affect innovation. The report said that nations with a strong business, regulatory and innovation policy environments will most likely pull ahead of others in the innovation race.

"While the U.S. has relatively strong business and regulatory environments, it lacks a comprehensive and coordinated innovation strategy and has seen key government inputs, including federal investment in research and development, decline," the report's author, Robert Atkinson said in a press release.

At the same time, Atkinson, who's president of the nonpartisan Washington, D.C.-based think tank, said America's global competitors are ramping up their innovation strategies and infrastructure and investing more.

Within this context, the United States has clear strengths, including managerial talent, enterprise use of information and communication technologies, customer demand, and a collaborative culture, the report said.

However, the U.S. is trending down in other areas - such as investments - "as federal policymakers continue their unwillingness to prioritize investment in the federal budget process," the report said.

Still, the U.S. can change policy that can really make a significant difference. Those areas include reforming immigration to attract more foreign, high-skilled workers and entrepreneurs and improving science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. The report also called for implementing manufacturing technology support programs and supporting programs that attract more foreign direct investment.

"Finally, while corporate tax reform is an area where some progress is possible, it is at least as likely that nothing major will happen or even that changes will be detrimental for innovation and competitiveness," the report said.

The report said there needs to be consensus in these areas, but that Congress has been preoccupied with other matters and the budget impasse between Republicans and Democrats will likely hinder progress in enhancing U.S. innovation and competitiveness.

For more:
- read the ITIF report (pdf)
- read the ITIF press release on the report

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