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Foreign governments capitalize on shifts in US policy

June 29, 2017
By: Robert Ksiazkiewicz

Since President Trump has taken office, the U.S. has seen several dramatic shifts in science and technology (S&T) policy from the previous administration—changes that several foreign leaders believe will create economic growth opportunities for their countries. As the Trump administration continues to roll out its S&T policy directives, these nations seem committed to growing their economies while chipping away at U.S. dominance in S&T. The most recent efforts by foreign governments fall into policy areas focused on supporting climate change and attracting talented immigrants.

Climate change activities

After Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, French President Emmanuel Macron had a pointed message for U.S. scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs working on climate change who feel alienated by the decision – “come and work in France on concrete solutions for climate."

Macron enhanced the invitation by unveiling a new €30 million ($34 million USD) initiative that is intended to attract climate change researchers to France. The government intends to leverage their initial funding commitment to attract an additional €30 million ($34 million USD) from universities and other organizations.  Once fully funded, the program would support approximately 50 researchers for five years. The French government also announced a new visa program that would greatly benefit climate change entrepreneurs looking to relocate to the country. 

The withdrawal from Paris Climate Accord also has created according to several analysts an opportunity for China to become the leader of the global climate change movement. While China is still nearly a decade away from reaching peak carbon dioxide emissions, the country is investing heavily it is own clean energy generation as well as establishing the South-to-South Cooperation Fund in 2014 to build low-carbon parks, implement mitigation and adaptation projects, and provide climate change training in developing countries.

China recently announced the One Belt, One Road effort (OBOR) – a $1 trillion or more infrastructure project that aims to become an interconnected network of ports, roads, railways, air routes, and resource pipelines that will ultimately connect Asia with Europe and East Africa. Through its South-to-South Cooperation fund, China will support climate change related projects in the countries that comprise the OBOR system. This massive, large-scale commitment is expected to benefit Chinese clean tech startups as well as the increase the influence of China on these countries.

Immigration efforts

The Trump administration is considering delaying and ultimately scrapping the pending International Entrepreneur Rule, dubbed the “startup visa effort”. The intent of the program is to grant foreign entrepreneurs a window of time (30 months initially, with a possible 30-month extension) to stay in the U.S. to build companies they recently started.  To receive the visa, the foreign entrepreneur must:

  • Demonstrate that he or she will contribute to economic growth or job creation; and,
  • Show that a reputable investor has put at least $250,000 into the company.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, this rule, which was supposed to go into effect on July 17, will be pushed back to March of next year. During that time, the government may pursue steps to rescind the rule altogether. While the U.S. startup visa may face a bleak future, Canada and France announced new efforts to attract foreign entrepreneurs to their country.

As part of his vision to make France ‘a country of unicorns,’ Macron announced a tech visa program for startups, investors, and entrepreneurs. "I will ensure that we create a most attractive and creative environment, I will ensure that the state and government acts a platform and not a constraint," Macron said.  The “talent passport” will be valid for four years and can be extended to immediate family members. Macron, a former investment banker, also proposed cuts to regulations to help startups thrive.

In an attempt to capitalize on immigration anxiety in the U.S., Canadian tech firms hope to benefit from a new immigration program launched by their government. The Global Talent Stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program will provide a fast-track visa for high-skilled talent, with the visa process taking as little as 10 days. In FY 2017-2018, the effort will function as a pilot program with $7.8 million in funding.

The Canadian government also announced an effort, called the Short Duration Work Permit exemption, which will significantly reduce the amount of red tape for individuals looking to enter the country for short-duration work terms.  Under the plan, academic researchers and others entering the country for short-duration work terms in low risk fields (e.g., inter-company work exchanges, study exchanges, or the entrance of temporary expertise) do not have to apply for a work permit/exemption to conduct research and other related activities for a term of up to 30 days. However, if the projects/research would last longer than 30 days, they must apply for a work visa or an exemption.

For longer projects, individuals can apply for an exemption of one 120-day stay every 12 months without requiring a work permit. In both cases, the researcher must be working on a research project at a publicly-funded degree-granting institution or affiliated research institution.


international, immigration, climate change