A Call for the 113th Congress to Support an Innovation Agenda


While the 113th Congress addresses hot-button issues like gun control, comprehensive immigration reform, sequester spending cuts and the federal budget, a critical issue that greatly impacts our economy and global competitiveness is being overlooked—innovation. Washington’s approach to innovation policy has been fragmented and detached from other prevalent issues, which led CONNECT to develop an innovation agenda for the 113th Congress.

Other countries are rapidly and aggressively closing the gap on the U.S. position as the global innovation leader. Now is the time for Washington to act if the U.S. is to secure its leading position, and maintain a climate favorable for companies, entrepreneurs, and academic and research institutions to lead the world in invention and discovery.

As a nonprofit industry group supporting technology innovation and entrepreneurship, CONNECT is asking Congress and the Obama Administration to make innovation a key part of our national agenda—and to advance and enact the following 11 specific policy ideas:

Retain top-level, foreign-born talent from American universities while welcoming immigrant entrepreneurs. High-skilled and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) visa reform made substantial bipartisan progress in the last Congress and should remain a top and urgent priority for the 113th Congress as part of comprehensive immigration reform.

Provide entrepreneurs, innovators, and investors economic certainty by reaching a grand deal to reduce federal deficits and restrain the national debt. Innovators, entrepreneurs, investors, and the American people, are ready for Congress and the White House to get serious about reaching an agreement that not only injects certainty into the markets and economy, but also demonstrates to the world that the U.S. is serious about retaining its place as the world economic and innovation leader.

Reform the tax code to incentivize and reward innovation. The current U.S. tax code does not do an adequate job of incentivizing innovation, new business creation, and enhancing the ability of young companies to scale up, expand, and produce in the U.S., and not overseas. As Congress considers comprehensive tax reform for the first time in nearly 30 years, it must not neglect a pro-growth tax code that promotes startups and emerging companies.

Recognize the importance and benefits of federal research funding. Instead of blunt and indiscriminate cuts through sequestration, Congress and the Administration should take a targeted approach to spending cuts, so as to not wipe out innovation occurring through federal research funding. A more targeted approach will not leave lab benches empty, life-saving experiments stalled, high-wage jobs vacant, and innovative technology trapped in development stages without a pathway to commercialization.

Encourage the expansion of available spectrum to fuel the revolutionary advancements in mobile technology. Congress should continue to explore ways to expand spectrum availability—the core fuel of the mobile revolution.

Encourage increased technology transfer and commercialization of federal research. Congress should strongly encourage federal agencies to proactively seek out regional innovation accelerators across the U.S. that already possess the expertise and capacity needed to move technology from the federal lab bench to the marketplace.

Conduct vigorous oversight of federal agencies with innovation-related regulatory authority and require Innovation Impact Statements for all regulations. Currently, a host of major innovation-related regulations are weaving their way through the administrative process at several agencies. Each regulatory proceeding carries the potential to spark greater American innovation or dampen development. Agencies should do more to regularly interact with the startup community and regional innovation organizations because their rich supply of talent can help educate federal agencies on the needs of startups. Congress should also require “Innovation Impact Statements” for all federal regulatory rulemakings.

Protect and extend America’s global edge in medical technology innovation by fully repealing the Medical Device Tax. Congress should fully repeal Obamacare’s misguided medical device tax, which taxes revenues—not profit—and is already hurting job creation and business expansion. The med-tech sector has been a consistent bright spot throughout the course of the weak economy. Med-tech innovation is critical to accomplishing the goals of healthcare reform—improving patient care while decreasing healthcare costs.

Foster improved STEM education, including workforce development partnerships. Congress should explore how best to unleash all 50 states to become laboratories of STEM improvement without excessive fear of running afoul of federal regulations.

Promote energy innovation to foster an environment to further propel clean tech advancements. Congress should advance innovative polices that create incentives for the clean energy sector, so startups and emerging companies are allowed to inject disruptive technologies into the marketplace in order to meet differing regional energy needs.

Strengthen intellectual property protections while fully funding the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) by providing full access to user fees. Congress and the Administration should continue their aggressive focus on strong U.S. intellectual property and trade secret protection; monitor the success and funding level of the USPTO. Past performance has shown that when USPTO has full access to its user fees, the patent application backlog decreases, and patent quality increases; and carefully monitor USPTO’s regulatory implementation of the America Invents Act paying particular attention to the new First to File regulations and the American Grace Period.

Various studies have indicated that tech startups are critical to driving job creation, economic growth, and U.S. competitiveness. These tech startups will migrate to wherever the business climate is best suited to foster their growth. The U.S. still holds many advantages over other countries for startup creation, but startup success is becoming increasingly difficult on a host of fronts. Plus, foreign competitors are passing laws to attract talent, R&D, and capital to their shores. Washington must quickly find solutions to these challenges so America will stay the home of startups and the land of opportunity.

The full innovation agenda is available online here.


Duane J. Roth was Chief Executive Officer and board member of CONNECT, the San Diego nonprofit organization that fosters entrepreneurship by catalyzing, accelerating, and supporting technology and life sciences innovation. He founded Alliance Pharmaceutical, and was a longtime life sciences industry executive. Follow @

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One response to “A Call for the 113th Congress to Support an Innovation Agenda”

  1. Angela Cummings says:

    Thank you Duane–great piece! I agree and feel strongly about the need for Innovation Impact Statements and the overall reciprocal interaction between start-ups and government entities.