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White House Requests $25M for Regional Innovation Program

President Obama’s proposed FY16 budget would provide $25 million for the EDA’s Regional Innovation program, a key legislative initiative for the technology-based economic development community. The Regional Innovation Program was authorized under the American COMPETES Act and is designed to provide funding to support regional innovation activities. The program received its first funding of $10 million in FY14 after extensive work on the Hill by SSTI, its members and others. A second infusion of $10 million was provided in the December FY15 continuing resolution/omnibus spending bill. More than 60 organizations signed a letter urging Congress to fund the program at $20 million (see August 7, 2014 Digest article) for FY15. The U.S. Department of Commerce announced that the FY14 solicitation had received 254 applications requesting more than $100 million in funding.

White House Unveils Free Community College, Technical Training Proposals

President Barack Obama recently announced a pair of initiatives to provide American students better access to two-year degrees and technical training programs. Under the first program, American’s College Promise, the federal government would cover three-quarters of the cost of an average community college education for students who attend at least half-time and maintain a 2.5 GPA. States would be required to contribute the rest of the tuition funds.

President Obama Signs Spending Bill, Keeping S&T Funding Stable

This week, President Obama signed off on the continuing resolution omnibus spending package that will keep the federal government open for another nine months (see last week’s analysis).The spending bill provides stable funding for R&D and most research agencies, according to analysis by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). About $137.6 billion is appropriated for federal R&D, a modest 1.7 percent increase over FY14. Most science and technology agencies would receive small increases, with a few exceptions. Department of Defense applied research funding would decline, funding for most institutes of the National Institutes of Health would not keep pace with inflation and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and ARPA-E would receive flat funding. Read the AAAS science and technology summary…

Federal Continuing Resolution Would Keep Regional Innovation, R&D Funding Stable

Earlier this week, congressional appropriators reached a tentative agreement on spending levels for the 2015 fiscal year just a few days before the Thursday deadline. The continuing resolution omnibus, “cromnibus,” spending package would, if approved by the House, Senate and president, avert a government shutdown and again defer budget negotiations until next September. Under the agreement, most agency budgets would remain at similar levels to those enacted for FY14.

President Obama Announces Competitions for Two Manufacturing Innovation Hubs

President Obama has announced two new competitions for manufacturing innovation hubs as Congress debates whether or not to fund a national network of innovation institutes (see related article). The first hub would foster research and commercialization collaborations around smart manufacturing for the Department of Energy. The second would develop flexible hybrid electronics technology at the Department of Defense. Each institute would receive $70 million or more of federal funding, with a requirement that federal investment be matched by the private sector.  Read the announcement…

White House Announces Commitments to Computer Science Education

This week marks 2014 Computer Science Education Week, the Obama administration’s call to the education, business, foundational, and nonprofit communities to help support and expand access to computer science education in American schools. On Monday, the administration announced several commitments aimed at providing millions of additional students with computer since education, including:

DHS Details Immigration Policy Changes for Foreign Students, Researchers, Entrepreneurs

As part of President Obama’s recent executive order on immigration, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently issued a number of new policies and regulations intended to capitalize on the skills of foreign workers, researchers and students. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy published an explanation of how the new rules will also be used to attract immigrant entrepreneurs through two new pathways to legal residency.

Manufacturing Committee Pushes for Increased Coordination, Investment

The federal government should invest in strategic technologies and multi-agency initiatives to iincrease U.S. advanced manufacturing capabilities, according to a new report from the President’s Council of Advisors in Science and Technology. The Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) Steering Committee “2.0” is a cross-sector, national effort to secure US leadership in emerging technologies that create high-quality manufacturing jobs and enhance the nation’s competitiveness. The committee released its second and final AMP report, Accelerating U.S. Advanced Manufacturing, this week as part of the White House’s rollout of new actions and initiatives intended to strengthen U.S. manufacturing.  The committee’s recommendations focus on enabling innovation, securing the talent pipeline, and improving the nation’s business climate.   

President Obama, Tech Industry Continue Press for Visa Reform

Earlier this summer, President Obama announced that his administration would be taking executive action to reform immigration policy, working to improve the entirety of the immigration system by tweaking individual components. This week, at a startup incubator in Los Angeles, the President revealed at least one of those components: the H1B system. As part of his remarks at a town hall meeting on innovation, the president declared his intentions to make the H1B system more efficient so that it encourages more people to stay in the United States. Capped at 65,000 visas for private-sector workers each year, the H1B (H-1B) visa program is the main visa used to bring high-skilled, foreign-born, talent into the United States. With the current cap unable to meet employer demand for H1B visas, and recent studies suggesting the United States may be losing competitive advantages as a result, more attention is being paid to the important role these foreign-born, high-skilled workers play in the economy.

President’s S&T Advisors Stress Need for ‘Middle Skills’ Training

New partnerships are needed between the IT community, government and institutions of higher learning to help bridge the American skills gap, according to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). In a letter to the president, PCAST notes that online solutions could provide people without secondary degrees with the training needed to fill high-demand IT jobs. Recognizing this need for accessible, lifelong learning resources, the Markle Foundation launched Rework America, a new $50 million effort to create online high-tech job training and entrepreneurship initiative.


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