WASHINGTON—The Trump administration and Congress should ensure federally funded research more effectively results in U.S. innovation and jobs by better connecting national research and development activities to local economies, according to a new paper released by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) and the Brookings Institution’s Bass Initiative on Innovation and Placemaking.

The paper, Localizing the Economic Impact of Research and Development: Policy Proposals for the Trump Administration and Congress, argues that supporting innovation around the country should be a top focus for the incoming administration and new Congress.

“America leads the world in supporting scientific research, but we are not capturing enough of the benefits from that in the form of new companies and products,” said paper co-author and ITIF Vice President of Global Innovation Policy Stephen Ezell. “The federal government needs to take a much more active role to help move innovative new ideas out of the lab and into the economy. If America’s innovation economy is to function at its peak, policymakers need to put in place smart policies that effectively work in concert at the city, regional, state, and national levels.”

With significant new federal R&D funding unlikely given the current budgetary environment—despite substantial underinvestment relative to historical norms—the paper urges Washington to extract more return from its R&D investments by better connecting federal resources to firms, inventors, and others in the regions in which federal funds are disbursed and research centers are located.

“From the Department of Defense to the National Institutes of Health, the federal government can and should better align its research dollars with local assets,” said paper co-author and Brookings Bass Initiative Associate Fellow Scott Andes. “Doing so would not only boost the national and regional economies, but also improve the outcomes of the U.S. government’s defense, health, energy, and other research aims.”

The paper’s recommendations range from prioritizing innovation districts in federal R&D outlays to implementing federal innovation vouchers to connect small firms with research institutions.

Its 50 policy actions align with five major policy imperatives:

  • ·        Strengthen innovation districts and regional technology clusters;
  • ·        Bolster institutions supporting tech transfer, commercialization, and innovation;
  • ·        Expand technology transfer and commercialization-related programs and investments;
  • ·        Promote high-growth, tech-based entrepreneurship; and
  • ·        Stimulate private-sector innovation.

While the recommendations are directed at the federal government, many of the actions could also be pursued by states and should be better understood and advocated for by localities.

The full list of policy actions is itemized below. Each is described in detail here.

Strengthen innovation districts and regional technology clusters

1.      Prioritize innovation districts within federal R&D outlays

2.      Task federal laboratories with a local economic development mission

3.      Create off-campus “microlabs” to provide a front door to labs

4.      Support technology clusters by assessing and managing local-level federal R&D investments

5.      Assess federal real estate holdings and reallocate physical research assets to innovation districts

6.      Allow labs to repurpose a small portion of existing funds for timely local collaboration

7.      Standardize research partnership contracts within cities

8.      Create NIH regional pre-competitive consortia to address national health concerns

9.      Allow DOE labs to engage in non-federal funding partnerships that do not require DOE approval

10. Dismantle funding silos to support regional collaboration

11. Incentivize cross-purpose funding based on the economic strength of cities

12. Expand the national Regional Innovation Program

13. Support the innovation potential of rural areas

14. Facilitate regional makerspaces

15. Introduce an “Open Commercialization Infrastructure Act”

Bolster institutions supporting tech transfer, commercialization, and innovation

16. Establish a core of 20 “manufacturing universities”

17. Complete the buildout of Manufacturing USA to 45 Institutes of Manufacturing Innovation (IMIs)

18. Create a National Engineering and Innovation Foundation

19. Create an Office of Innovation Review within the Office of Management and Budget

20. Create a network of acquisition-oriented DoD labs based in regional technology clusters

21. Establish manufacturing development facilities

22. Establish a foundation for the national energy laboratories

Expand technology transfer and commercialization-related programs and investments

23. Increase the importance of commercialization activities at federal labs/research institutes

24. Allocate a share of federal funding to promote technology transfer and commercialization

25. Develop a proof-of-concept, or “Phase Zero,” individual and institutional grant award program within major federal research agencies

26. Fund pilot programs supporting experimental approaches to technology transfer and commercialization

27. Support university-based technology accelerators/incubators to commercialize faculty and student research

28. Allow a share of SBIR/STTR awards to be used for commercialization activities

29. Increase the allocation of federal agencies’ SBIR project budgets to commercialization activities

30. Modify the criteria and composition of SBIR review panels to make commercialization potential a more prominent factor in funding decisions

31. Encourage engagement of intermediary organizations in supporting the development of startups

32. Expand the NSF I-Corps program to additional federal agencies

33. Authorize and extend the Lab-Corps program

34. Provide federal matching funds for state and regional technology transfer and commercialization efforts

35. Incentivize universities to focus more on commercialization activities

36. Establish stronger university entrepreneurship metrics

37. Expand the collaborative R&D tax credit to spur research collaboration between industry and universities and labs

38. Increase funding for cooperative industry/university research programs at universities

39. Establish an International Patent Consortium

Promote high-growth, tech-based entrepreneurship

40. Encourage student entrepreneurship

41. Help nascent high-growth startups secure needed capital

42. Establish an entrepreneur-in-residence program with NIH

43. Implement immigration policies that advantage high-skill talent

44. Implement a research investor’s visa

Stimulate private-sector innovation

45. Implement innovation vouchers

46. Incentivize “megafunds” around high-risk research and development

47. Increase R&D tax credit generosity

48. Ensure that small and medium-sized enterprises are familiar with available R&D tax credits

49. Implement an innovation box to spur enterprises’ efforts to commercialize technologies

50. Revise the tax code to support innovation by research-intensive, pre-revenue companies