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Clinton Innovation Agenda Addresses TBED Priorities

June 30, 2016

The Clinton campaign released on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton’s Initiative on Technology & Innovation, a wide-ranging platform with a heavy emphasis on technology-based economic development. Most of the coverage emphasizes her proposals for universal broadband access, computer science education, and student-debt forgiveness for entrepreneurs. The plan also explicitly supports policies sought by SSTI members, including increased support for the Regional Innovation Program and using a portion of federal research budgets for commercialization capacity building grants.

Secretary Clinton’s agenda defines five broad pillars:

  • Building the Tech Economy on Main Street;
  • Investing in World-Class Digital Infrastructure;
  • Advancing America’s Global Leadership in Tech and Innovation;
  • Setting Rules of the Road to Promote Innovation While Protecting Privacy; and,
  • Smarter and More Innovative Government.

The first pillar includes proposals most relevant to the SSTI community. Secretary Clinton states an intention to invest in STEM education through grants geared toward improving student access, training computer science teachers and new support for advanced workforce training, particularly for women and minorities. International talent is addressed through proposals to include green cards with STEM M.A.s and Ph.D.s, as well as a “startup” visa for tech entrepreneurs with investor commitments. To encourage young Americans to create new businesses, Secretary Clinton proposes deferring up to three years of student-loan debt for entrepreneurs and forgiving up to $17,500 of debt if those startups locate in distressed communities.

The first pillar of the agenda also provides a laundry list of initiatives to improve access to capital. Some of these items, such as “supporting incubators, accelerators, mentoring and training for 50,000 entrepreneurs in underserved areas” and “building public-private partnerships to invest in local innovation,” are not currently defined in any detail. Specific proposals are to make New Markets Tax Credit permanent, to double the spending on the Community Development Finance Institutions Fund and to double the State Small Business Credit Initiative (the agenda does not currently clarify this proposal but likely indicates reauthorizing the by-then expired program at twice the original $1.5 billion funding).

Finally, the first pillar addresses investments in science, R&D and tech transfer. Secretary Clinton articulates a desire to increase the research budgets for the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. This section of the agenda also states support for the commercialization-capacity grants and Regional Innovation Program, as well as the I-Corps program, but without specifics on what this support would mean in practical terms.

Other components of the technology and innovation agenda further address tech-based economic development. Infrastructure-focused proposals include providing universal broadband access and establishing an Infrastructure Bank that will, presumably among other responsibilities, host “Model Digital Communities” challenges to enable demonstrations of how tech can improve urban business and quality of life (a program that sounds similar to the recent Smart Cities challenge). Additional proposals would advance the Internet of Things through research and projects, improve the speed of medical-device approvals, and continue the Obama administration’s efforts to update and add capacity to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Additional sections of Secretary Clinton’s agenda articulate support for defending net neutrality, expanding public access to government data and improving the efficiency of federal agencies through technology.

The Trump campaign has not yet released a plan for technology or innovation, and SSTI will provide analysis when it does. In a speech also delivered on June 28, Donald Trump emphasized renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement and removing China from the World Trade Organization as the core components of his economic policy.

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