Statement on U.S. Innovation Strategy for the 21<sup>st</sup> Century

ACS Position Statement


ACS supports innovation policies to

fund both S&T research and science education as well as establish and environment to innovation. In addition, ACS supports recent reports on not only innovation and competitiveness, but also related legislation.

ACS Position

The United States faces increased competition to its economic and technological leadership in the global marketplace. America’s heretofore unmatched ability and capacity to innovate—to create new products and processes, markets, and industries that change the world—depends on three critical and interdependent sources:

  • Creative ideas that flow from a strong, diverse, basic research enterprise
  • A creative, well-trained, and determined workforce
  • An environment that facilitates innovations being brought to market

It is vital to our nation’s future economic prosperity and security that we renew and refocus our attention to research and development, science and engineering education, and the policies that encourage innovation. The rapidly changing world of commerce and science demands that we take action if we hope to remain the world’s recognized economic and innovation leader. We must develop a sound, strong, and forward-looking innovation strategy for this century.

The American Chemical Society is supportive of the recommendations of (1) the National Academies, (2) the Council on Competitiveness, and (3) the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation regarding how the United States should respond to the threat to our leadership position. Further, the American Chemical Society is prepared and resolved to have a proactive role in helping develop a 21st century national innovation strategy and supporting legislation that embodies the elements of these reports.

A hardworking and entrepreneurial American workforce, coupled with aggressive federal and private investment in scientific and technological research, sent a man to the moon, harnessed the atom, sequenced the human genome, and built a dynamic, robust, and growing economy that is the envy of the world. As the 21st Century blossoms, we must revitalize our commitment to strengthen the pillars of American innovation and competitiveness – education, basic research, and a business environment to drive innovation.

The report, Benchmarks of our Innovation Future report, released by the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation, of which ACS is a leader, details America’s economic challenges from strategic competitors. These nations are patenting technology, publishing articles in scientific journals, and producing a science- and technology-focused workforce at a rate far faster than the United States. Furthermore, unlike the challenges posed by Japan and Germany in the 1980s, China and India’s low labor costs, along with a highly educated and entrepreneurial workforce, present a unique challenge to the American economy.

A recent report by the National Academies, Rising above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, should serve as part of a blueprint for our national response. The Academies highlighted the worrisome trends and possible consequences, and explored possible solutions. The following excerpts from the report highlight a few trends that directly impact our chemical enterprise:

  • Last year, chemical companies were forced to shutter 70 facilities in the United States, and 40 more are targeted to close
  • Of the 120 new chemical plants of $1 billion or more being built around the world, only one is in the United States, while 50 are in China.
  • U.S. 12th graders recently performed below the international average for 21 countries in mathematics and science.
  • Last year 600,000 engineers graduated in China, 350,000 in India, and only 70,000 in the United States.

The Academies report recommends that we increase America’s talent pool by vastly improving K-12 science and mathematics and that we strengthen the nation’s traditional commitment to long-term basic research. Doing so will help ensure that America remains the most attractive setting in which to study and perform research, which will allow us to develop, recruit, and retain the best and brightest students, scientists, and engineers from within the U.S. and around the world. This commitment to basic research and education is essential to enabling the United States to retain its position as the premier destination in the world to innovate.

The Council on Competitiveness report, Innovate America, highlights three areas crucial to the continued success of the U.S. economy:

  • Talent − the human dimension of innovation, which includes knowledge creation, education training, and workforce support
  • Investment − the financial dimension, including R&D investment, support for risk-taking, and encouragement of long term innovation strategies; and
  • Infrastructure − the physical and policy structures that support innovation

Although the engines of innovation are largely in private hands, the government has a proper and important—even urgent—role in nurturing the innovation environment. Science and technology have made America strong and have created millions of high-skill, high-wage jobs. Advances in science and technology have enhanced our quality of life, enabling us to live longer and healthier lives.

The American Chemical Society members represent the “human scientific capital” that drives the scientific advances and innovation that have made America the world leader it is today. The Society supports the observations and recommendations made by the National Academies, the Council on Competitiveness, and the Task Force on Innovation. Government, industry and academia need to work together to develop a cohesive, national innovation strategy to increase science and engineering talent and maintain America’s lead at the cutting edge of science and innovation across disciplines and sectors. This plan should:

Strengthen Basic Research and Technology Development

  • Increase and optimize federal investments in basic physical sciences research and science infrastructure to encourage the development of fundamental ideas and directions that serve as the foundation for innovation
  • Encourage research and technology development that brings the most effective tools to bear on our economic, national, and homeland security needs today and in the future
  • Assure the most open interactions possible among scientists, engineers, and students from across the globe
  • Promote a strong, scientific publishing enterprise that enables the open, economical exchange of scientific ideas and appropriate review, management, and archiving of the information

Invest in People through Education and Training

  • Strengthen effective science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education programs at all levels – K-12, undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education
  • Recruit and retain highly skilled STEM teachers, improve the content knowledge skills of the K-12 STEM teacher workforce, and improve the resources available in STEM classrooms
  • Encourage more of our best and brightest students, especially women and those from underrepresented or disadvantaged groups, to study in STEM fields
  • Enable lifelong inquiry-based science education for everyone in both formal and informal settings to improve the scientific understanding of all of our citizens
  • Enhance training opportunities, retirement security, and quality of life for science and engineering professionals

Strengthen the Environment for Business Innovation and Sustainability

  • Promote incentives and reduced economic and regulatory barriers to the development of new technologies
  • Foster improvements in the U.S. and international systems for patent protection and for voluntary consensus standards
  • Assure appropriate, balanced use of voluntary and regulatory measures in achieving policy goals
  • Foster the development and adoption of economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable products and processes
  • Promote institutions and guidelines to assure that governments, including legislatures, make appropriate and open use of scientific and technological information in making policy decisions


1. Business Roundtable, Tapping America’s Potential: The Education for Innovation Initiative, July 2005.

2. Council on Competitiveness, National Innovation Initiative (NII), Innovate America Report, December 2004.

3. National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, October 2005.

4. National Association of Manufacturers, Looming Workforce Crisis: Preparing American Workers for 21st Century Competition, September 2005.

5. National Bureau of Economic Research, Does Globalization of the Scientific/Engineering Workforce Threaten U.S. Economic Leadership?, National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 11457, July 2005.

6. National Science Board, The Science and Engineering Workforce: Realizing America’s Potential, August 2003

7. President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, Sustaining the Nation’s Innovation Ecosystems, Information Technology Manufacturing and Competitiveness, January 2004.

8. President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, Sustaining the Nation’s Innovation Ecosystem: Information Maintaining the Strength of Our Science and Engineering Capabilities, June 2004.

9. Task Force on the Future of American Innovation, Benchmarks of Our Innovation Future: The Knowledge Economy: Is the United States Losing Its Competitive Edge? February 2005.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit scientific and educational organization, chartered by Congress, with more than 158,000 chemical scientists and engineers as members. The world’s largest scientific society, ACS advances the chemical enterprise, increases public understanding of chemistry, and brings its expertise to bear on state and national matters.

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Related Content & Information

Science education, research need a boost from U.S.
Opinion piece by Chad Holliday Jr. and Graham B. Spanier, The Philadelphia Inquirer (4/8/08)

Benchmark II report
Taskforce on the Future of American Innovation (11/14/06)

Five for the Future .
Council on Competitiveness (10/26/07)

Research & Development Bolsters U.S. Economic Growth
Press Release of NSF Study (10/1/07)

Rising Above the Gathering Storm
National Academy of Sciences (2007)