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America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 Clears the House With Bipartisan Support

Written by: 
Vincent Caprio

On Friday, May 28th at 3:00pm, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5116, America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, by a vote of 262 to 150. Included in H.R. 5116 is the National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act of 2010. The bill, which has over 100 cosponsors and more than 750 endorsers, makes investments in science, innovation, and education to support employers today while strengthening the U.S. scientific and economic leadership to grow new industries of tomorrow, and the jobs that come with them.

Here are some highlights of the National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act of 2010.

Over 750 organizations have endorsed the legislation including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable, the Council on Competitiveness, the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the NanoBusiness Alliance, the National Venture Capital Association, TechAmerica, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the American Chemical Society, and others, including nearly 100 universities and colleges.

"If we are to reverse the trend of the last twenty years, where our country's technology edge in the world has diminished, we must make the investments necessary today," said Chairman Bart Gordon  (D-TN). "The path is simple. Research and education lead to innovation. Innovation leads to economic development and good paying jobs and the revenue to pay for more research. And as private firms under-invest in research and development because the returns are too far off in the future, there is a clear and necessary role of government to help our nation keep pace with the rest of the world."

To maintain a pipeline of ideas, the bill puts basic research programs on a path to doubling authorized funding levels over ten years at: the Department of Energy Office of Science, the single largest supporter of research in the physical sciences in the U.S.; the National Science Foundation, which supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering; and the National Institute of Standards and Technology labs, which conduct research to advance the nation's technology infrastructure and support industry.

The bill will help foster innovation in new energy technologies by: reauthorizing the Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is pursuing high-risk, high-reward energy technology development; and authorizing Energy Innovation Hubs, which are multidisciplinary collaborations with a single technological focus that currently presents a critical barrier to achieving our national energy innovation goals.

The bill supports local efforts to form Regional Innovation Clusters, which will strengthen regional economies and advance the work done in a given field by leveraging collaboration and communication between businesses and other entities.

The bill addresses immediate needs by creating Innovative Technology Federal Loan Guarantees to help small- and medium-sized manufacturers access capital to make necessary updates to become more efficient and stay competitive.

The bill will also assist industry by ensuring that the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program at National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) better reflects the needs and challenges facing manufacturers today. In addition, the bill reorganizes NIST labs to reflect the multidisciplinary nature of technology and better meet the needs of industry in the 21st century.

The bill also will help improve science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education by reauthorizing the Noyce scholarships, which help give K-12 teachers a strong grounding in their fields, so they can more fully engage students. The bill also addresses coordination of STEM activities across the federal government, and improves STEM education at the undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral levels.

"Throughout the Committee process, there was a lot of legitimate discussion about federal deficits. I agree that we must address the challenges presented by our deficits, but we must also invest in our country's future. I remember Newt Gingrich saying one of his greatest regrets was not doubling the funding for NSF when he put NIH on the doubling path," said Gordon. "During committee consideration of this bill, we made some significant changes to the bill's authorization levels - cutting them by over 10 percent. Though we will maintain a doubling path for our research accounts, we do so on a slightly less aggressive trajectory."

"As I've said before, this bill is too important to let fall by the wayside. Today, we took the action necessary to see consideration of this bill completed. And we allowed the Members of the House to be on record voting on provisions gutting funding for our science agencies, voting on whether we should eliminate programs that will help create jobs, voting on whether to eliminate programs that will make us more energy independent, voting in opposition to federal employees watching pornography, and voting on whether universities that ban military recruiters should receive federal research dollars. We have provided all Members, in a reasonable manner, with the ability to vote on each of these items separately instead of all together," said Chairman Gordon.

For more information, visit the Committee on Science and Technology Web site.

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