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Startup Act would reauthorize Regional Innovation Strategies, implement commercialization grants

September 28, 2017

Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) along with Senators Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)  introduced the Startup Act today – legislation that would help regions throughout the country address critical gaps between R&D and economic prosperity. SSTI has worked with the offices on sections of the bill that reauthorize and expand the Regional Innovation Strategies program and would implement a new commercialization grants program. SSTI supports the Startup Act (S. 1877) and calls upon other senators to cosponsor this bill and for the House to take up the legislation.

In a press statement accompanying the reintroduction, Moran explained the urgency of the issues to be tackled by the varied elements of the bill.

“New business formation and the rate of entrepreneurship have reached historic lows,” Moran said. “Simply put, America is falling behind and losing talent and jobs to countries overseas. Congress must work to reverse these trends and support policies that allow better opportunities for someone to take an idea, bring it to market, and in the process of pursuing that success, create jobs for other Americans.”

Innovation policy has enjoyed strong support from across the political spectrum and the Startup Act continues in that path, with Warner saying: "For years, we have pushed in Congress for commonsense legislation to encourage entrepreneurship and help startup companies grow and thrive.” He is quoted as further saying, “This bipartisan bill seeks to attract and retain the talented innovators and entrepreneurs that will help our country and Virginia promote capital investment and achieve economic growth.”

Blunt concurred, saying “The Startup Act will make it easier for entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses, resulting in more good-paying American jobs. The bill will also increase U.S. competitiveness by ensuring that we have the workforce we need in high-demand STEM fields, which will pave the way for new innovations and stronger economic growth.”

The changes to the Regional Innovation Strategies program are significant. First, the program’s duration would extend through FY 2024, and the authorization level would increase to $100 million (subject to appropriations). Second, the new language would clarify the program’s emphasis on regional solutions to transform research into new solutions, products and businesses. The bill accomplishes this by placing priority on outcomes, rather than process, by allowing project timelines to increase to five years, and by divorcing the program from “clusters,” which has caused some confusion with the Small Business Administration’s regional innovation clusters initiative. The bottom line is that the Secretary of Commerce will be able to implement a Regional Innovation Strategies program that is even more responsive to local needs.

The new commercialization grants program has been in previous versions of the Startup Act, and as with previous iterations, would allow awards to support the transformation of federal R&D into new products and businesses. Unlike past versions, the new bill would make both institutions of higher education and venture development organizations -- included as a new, legal definition of these entities -- eligible for funding. The exact stipulations of the program would be designated by the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, but would emphasize replicable efforts to transform R&D and encourage entrepreneurship. The size of the program would be relative to the federal extramural R&D budget, which is difficult to quantify in advance, but would essentially be about 4 percent the size of SBIR funding, which was $2.3 billion in FY 2015.

Other provisions of the Startup Act would provide visas for immigrants with advanced STEM degrees, codify the international entrepreneur rule, implement several new reports and make additional changes related to immigration and spending.

The Startup Act is another example of Congress making a strong statement of support for innovation as a driver of future economic prosperity. SSTI applauds Senators Moran and Warner for their leadership on this issue.

“This bipartisan legislation would reduce barriers to growth, encourage investment in new businesses, improve the regulatory process, keep talent here in the United States and accelerate the commercialization of university research that can lead to new ventures and the creation of good-paying jobs in Kansas and nationwide. With a new administration and a renewed focus on achieving American economic competitiveness, I urge my colleagues to support the Startup Act so that it can be debated and considered in the Senate,” Moran said in the statement.

To learn more about the bill and to find out how you can encourage your delegation to support the Startup Act, contact SSTI today at 614-901-1690 or contactus@ssti.org

congress, startup act, legislation, innovation