Lawmaker: America ‘Can Do Better,’ Contribute More to Global Tech


A recent report ranked the U.S. 10th out of 56 nations because of factors including relatively lower R&D funding.

The United States contributes less to global technological advancement than Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom, a new report found -- and it’s a sign that laws limiting startups and scientific research should be relaxed, according to a bipartisan group of senators.

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a Washington-based think tank, ranked 56 countries on factors that could encourage “innovation” inside and outside their borders -- including tax incentives for and public investment in scientific research -- or that could detract from it, such as strict intellectual property protection. The U.S. was ranked 10th, after nations whose policies encouraged more technology development domestically and exchange across borders.

“The nation that brought the world the assembly line, the automobile, the iPhone, thousands of inventions that have made modern life possible worldwide can surely do better than 10,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said at a recent discussion about the report on Capitol Hill.

“I’m interested in what we can do better . .. to make sure we are building back toward the first,” said Coons, who co-chairs the Senate Competitiveness Caucus. Next steps might be to make greater investments in research and development, “wiser investments in human capital,” and reducing effective corporate tax rates, “ensuring that businesses can compete fairly around the world."

Joined by Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., at a discussion co-hosted by ITIF, Coons described proposed legislation that could amplify the nation's technology contributions, such as the Startup Act, in its newest iteration, which aims to relax immigration restrictions on people with advanced STEM degrees, among other provisions.

Gardner said he and colleagues have been meeting with universities and national laboratories to discuss technology transfer programs.

According to the report, which judged countries on net contribution to global innovation per capita, U.S. policies “do little to detract from global innovation yet fall short of those of other nations when it comes to contributing to global innovation." For instance, funding for scientific research is lower in the U.S. than in the top nine countries, the report said.

Argentina, Indonesia, India, Thailand and Ukraine were at the tail-end of the list. Some nations who scored poorly had “forced localization policies,” favoring domestic production of technology; India’s government, for instance, is aiming by 2020 to ensure that 80 percent of the information and communications technology it buys to be domestically produced, the report said.

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