Power Electronics

Pending R&D Funding Bill Could Help Boost U.S. Innovation

Find a downloadable version of this story in pdf format at the end of the story.

U.S. R&D FUNDING COULD GET “SHOT IN THE ARM” FROM H.R. 5116 initiated April 2010 by the House Science and Technology Committee. The House passed the measure on May 28, 2010. On June 29 the bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

H.R. 5116, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, would provide a five year authorization of funding at $86 billion for the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy's Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to provide for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) educational programs. It shifts policy priorities enacted in a similar 2007 bill to focus more on technology commercialization and research and development relating to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. Among its present provisions are:

  • Requires the National Nanotechnology Initiative to update a strategic plan to guide the results of their work out of the laboratory and into applications that benefits society, to set forth how the program will encourage and support interdisciplinary research and development in nanotechnology, and to propose research in areas of national importance.
  • Requests the Interdisciplinary Research Centers to focus on nano-manufacturing research and to include as part the activities of the center, research on methods and approaches to develop environmentally benign nanoscale products and manufacturing processes.
  • Directs the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to ensure the development of formal policies for the management and use of federal scientific collections to improve the quality, organization, access, including online access, and long-term preservation of such collections for the benefit of scientific enterprise.
  • Requires the Director of Science and Technology Policy to establish a working group with responsibility to coordinate federal science agency research and policies related to the dissemination and long-term stewardship of the results of unclassified research.
  • Requires the National Science Foundation to:
  • Increase U.S. economic competitiveness
  • Develop a globally competitive STEM workforce
  • Increase participation of women and under-represented minorities in STEM
  • Increase partnerships between academia and industry
  • Improve pre-k-12 STEM education and teacher development
  • Improve undergraduate STEM education
  • Increase public scientific literacy

Requires the NSF to use at least five percent of its research budget to fund high-risk, high-reward basic research proposals. It would require the NSF to award grants in amounts not to exceed $5 million over a period of up to five years to interdisciplinary research collaborations that are likely to assist in addressing critical challenges to national security, competitiveness, and societal well-being.

Requires the Director of the Office of Science and Technology to establish a committee with responsibility for coordinating federal programs and activities in support of STEM education, including the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of Education in support of STEM education.

Creates Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology, appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, to serve as the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Assigns the National Institute of Standards and Technology to promote collaboration among federal departments, agencies, and private sector stake-holders in the development and implementation of international technical standards.

Establishes an Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship to foster innovation and the commercialization of new technologies, products, processes, and services. The program would be responsible for advancing the commercialization of research and development, including federally funded research and development.

Extends the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) through FY2015 and shifts the programmatic emphasis toward facilitating the commercial application of energy technologies developed under ARPA-E and other government sponsored research and development programs.

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