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Presidential Election Will Shape U.S. Innovation Strategy

October 03, 2012

Though innovation and entrepreneurship was notably absent from Wednesday's presidential debate on domestic policy, presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have acknowledged the importance of technological innovation in stimulating the economy and bolstering U.S. competitive capabilities in the global economy. As can be seen in the candidates' statements and party platforms, President Obama supports a publically driven innovation plan that partners with industry to make strategic investments, while Romney tends to emphasize the necessity of corporate tax and regulatory reform in creating a supportive framework in which private sector innovation can thrive.

In early September, ScienceDebate.org released a side-by-side comparison of answers to 14 specific S&T related questions by the two leading presidential candidates. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) also released a report in September comparing the candidates' stances on issues like innovation and R&D, trade, education, regulation and manufacturing, often citing answers from the ScienceDebate.org questionnaire. Although both candidates lack specificity in select areas, SSTI has outlined the general positions and proposed policies in a number of TBED issue areas for each candidate where available.

Education: President Obama set a goal to prepare 100,000 additional STEM teachers in the next 10 years under the "Educate to Innovate" campaign and plans to launch STEM Master Teacher Corps in 100 sites. His administration introduced the I3 fund that offers competitive grants to implement innovative practices that better K-12 achievement. Romney sees successful charter schools as integral components of a reformed K-12 educational system and supports expanded school choice options including math and science high schools under his "A Chance for Every Child Plan". Romney would raise the ceiling on the number of visas issued to immigrants with advanced STEM degrees who have job offers in the U.S., according to his economic plan.

Energy: In his economic plan, Romney stresses that investing in basic research and initial demonstration projects of "new energy technologies" and increasing domestic energy production are beneficial in bolstering the economy and improving national security. President Obama supports investment in all stages of the clean energy innovation lifecycle from basic science through deployment.

Innovation and R&D: Both candidates support making the R&D tax credit permanent. In the 2008 presidential campaign, President Obama pledged to double federal funding within 10 years, and although there is concern whether the administration will reach these numbers, NIST and NSF both have seen an increase. He has also set a goal of investing more than 3 percent of U.S. GDP in public and private research and development. Romney has a broader focus on breaking down regulatory and tax barriers that inhibit the commercialization process as implied in his ScienceDebate.org responses.

Manufacturing: President Obama has campaigned with a targeted manufacturing policy in which he would implement an 18 percent tax deduction for domestic advanced manufacturing, and provide a 20 percent tax credit to companies for expenses related to moving production back to the U.S. He has proposed investing $1 billion to create a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. Romney has not outlined a specific manufacturing policy plan, but he has articulated the need to create an ideal environment for companies, including manufacturers, through regulatory and tax reform to make domestic production more attractive.

Tax and Regulation: According to their economic plans, both candidates claim they would cut the corporate income tax rate; President Obama would reduce the rate to 28 percent and Romney to 25 percent from its current combined federal-state rate of 39.2 percent. Romney writes that a robust investment tax credit could help with first year expensing of equipment and technology investments under his economic plan. President Obama proposed to increase the rate of the Alternative Simplified Credit from 14 percent to 17 percent. Romney supports implementing a regulatory cap that would require all "major" regulatory rules to be approved by both house of Congress to ensure to ensure they are effective and cost-conscious.

elections, manufacturing, r&d, energy, k-12, tax credits