U.S. Innovation and Entrepreneurship

ACS Position Statement

Innovation is built upon investments and advances in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and is crucial for a growing American economy. Developments in these fields ultimately lead to new marketable products, enabling innovations, and new jobs. A trained workforce with strong math and science skills is essential to a thriving, technology-driven economy that relies on cross-sector, multi-disciplinary collaboration.

We are at a critical point in history. Between 2000 and 2009, the United States slipped from 5th to our current position of 10th among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nations’ research and development (R&D) investment as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP).  If America is to remain a recognized leader in an increasingly competitive and global environment, swift and decisive action must be taken to meet the requirements of a healthy economy. According to the Council on Competitiveness report, Innovate America, these include 1) a talented workforce, 2) investment in R&D and long-term innovation strategies, and 3) infrastructure support and maintenance. A renewed commitment to science and technology support by the federal government is essential to sustainable innovation.

Innovation doesn’t happen overnight; it is fostered by a sustained commitment to every step of the R&D process—from discovery, to development, and to production. The United States’ previously unmatched ability and capacity to create new products, processes, markets, and industries that change the world is built on

  • an environment that embraces high-risk, high-impact research and cultivates the development of novel applications from those research ideas;
  • a robust technology transfer and commercialization capability for moving new innovations to the marketplace;
  • a well-trained, determined, and diverse workforce that can nurture and develop those ideas; and
  • a scientific culture that encourages cross-sector and international collaboration, provides early independence to investigators, and allows mobility between academic and industrial institutions. A strong science and technology ecosystem is facilitated by entities, such as professional societies.

Future innovation demands a substantial, sustained investment in STEM education, as recommended by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.1 This includes a commitment to robust, predictable, and sustained support in basic, applied, and translational R&D, as well as programs to assure that research leads to new products and jobs in the United States. While we face many immediate issues and must make tough decisions, the return-on-investment for long-term R&D and innovation is substantial, paving the way to a brighter economic future.

The American Chemical Society asks policymakers to develop a strategy that allows our nation to remain a global leader in innovation and competitiveness through the following strategies:

Development and Support of a World-Class Workforce

  • Strengthening effective STEM education programs at all levels: K-12, undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education. STEM education programs and policies should reflect the current body of teaching and learning research, emphasize the practice of science, and align with evolving workforce needs.
  • Recruiting and retaining highly skilled STEM teachers, improving the content knowledge skills of the K-12 STEM teacher workforce, and improving the resources available in STEM classrooms.
  • Encouraging and supporting the most promising students, including those from under-represented or disadvantaged groups, to study and work in STEM fields.
  • Enabling lifelong, inquiry-based science education for everyone, in both formal and informal settings, to improve the scientific literacy of all U.S. citizens.
  • Enhancing training opportunities, retirement security, and professional mobility for STEM professionals.
  • Enabling all scientists and engineers to bring their technical talents to the broader U.S. workforce, which crosses STEM and non-STEM disciplines, as well as industrial, academic, and governmental sectors,
  • Updating education, training, workforce, and immigration policies to ensure that the United States has the highly educated and innovative workforce necessary to grow the economy, as well as support American enterprises and jobs.

Predictable and Sustained Commitments to Research and Technology Development

  • Strengthening and sustaining predictable federal investments for all phases of R&D, including R&D infrastructure, to develop the foundations for innovation and to address immediate and future economic and national security needs.
  • Expanding the physical R&D infrastructure at non-profit institutions, such as universities and federal science agencies, which enhances interactions with industry in order and to increase technology transfer and commercialization of breakthroughs.
  • Developing and enhancing policies and programs that enable emerging technologies to be scaled up and moved across the “valley of death.”
  • Encouraging open interactions among scientists, engineers, and students from all nations, including STEM workers employed by the U.S. federal government.
  • Promoting a strong, scientific publishing enterprise that enables open exchange of scientific ideas, data, and protocols with appropriate access, peer review, management, searchability, and information archiving.

Development of a Sustainable Infrastructure for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

  • Minimizing the impact of a shifting, global job environment by reducing economic and regulatory barriers to the development of new technologies and the manufacture of related products in the United States.
  • Implementing U.S. corporate tax and trade policies that will make U.S. firms competitive with our international rivals.
  • Providing incentives to encourage capital investments and entrepreneurship activities from domestic and international citizens, including providing grants, low-interest loans, and accelerated depreciation tax incentives to mitigate the high start-up or retooling costs associated with high technology businesses.
  • Improving the U.S. and international systems for patent protection and voluntary consensus standards.
  • Developing efficient and effective policies and tools for administration, personnel, intellectual property, and information sharing at institutions in all sectors to facilitate the movement of R&D breakthroughs to market.
  • Ensuring an appropriate balance of voluntary and regulatory measures to reach our goals.
  • Developing and adopting economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable products and processes.
  • Promoting institutions and guidelines to ensure that government makes appropriate and transparent use of scientific information in making policy decisions.

Science and technology make the United States strong by creating millions of high-skill, high-wage jobs and enhancing the American quality of life. The strategies listed above will help ensure that these benefits continue into the future and that our nation will remain the world’s recognized economic and innovation leader.

Position in Brief

  • Supports investment in a world-class workforce through education and training.
  • Supports predictable and sustained commitments to basic research and technology development.
  • Supports development of a sustainable infrastructure for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Legislative Outcomes

  • Inserted language boosting federal investment and coordination of sustainable chemistry research as part of S. 3084, American Innovation and Competitiveness Act.
  • Jointly produced a report for Congress on the nation's helium shortage with the American Physical Society and the Materials Research Society. The report outlines legislative recommendations to address the shortage that otherwise hampers scientific research.

1 President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Engage to Excel: Producing One Million Additional College Graduates with Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, February 2012.

The American Chemical Society (ACS) Board of Directors Committee on Public Affairs and Public Relations adopted this statement on behalf of the Society at the recommendation of the Committee on Chemistry and Public Affairs.