Ensuring America’s Competitiveness – Encouraging Innovation and the Development of Technology
The talent, intellect, and entrepreneurial spirit of the American people have made this nation the leader in economic and technological advancements. American leadership is fueled by national investments in an educated and skilled workforce, groundbreaking federal research and development by the public and private sectors, and a steadfast commitment to being the most competitive and innovative nation in the world.
Representing Silicon Valley in Congress, I have made it a top priority to focus on priorities that will enable America to retain this leadership role. My efforts have been recognized by the American Chemical Society, which presented me with its Public Service Award in 2009; the Science, Engineering, and Technology Working Group, a network of professional, scientific, and engineering societies, higher education associations, institutions of higher learning, companies, and trade associations, who presented me with the George Brown Award for leadership in the determination of science, engineering, and technology policy in 2013; and the Foresight Institute, a Bay Area nonprofit dedicated to advancing beneficial nanotechnology, which presented me with its first ever Government Prize in Nanotechnology.
Promoting American High-Tech Manufacturing
For over a generation, there has been a steady decline in manufacturing as a portion of the American economy. In reality, the American manufacturing sector isn’t failing – it’s evolving. In my Silicon Valley district, manufacturing still plays a leading role on our local economy. Among our nation’s largest metropolitan areas, we have one of the highest percentages of the workforce involved in the manufacturing sector at nearly 20% -- more than twice the national average. While the factory floors no longer look like your grandfather’s workroom, by using the business model of Silicon Valley companies, we can recapture many of the jobs we’ve lost, become a country that makes products again, and remain globally competitive in the 21st century.
I have proposed a number of policies that will help promote advanced manufacturing. My Market Based Manufacturing Incentives Act aims to identify the next ten game-changing technologies and provide consumers tax credits to purchase these products as long as they are manufactured in the US. This will help create demand for domestically manufactured products and provide manufacturers with an incentive – access to the US market – to make their products here. My Scaling Up Manufacturing Act also seeks to promote domestic advanced manufacturing, but from a different direction. The SUM Act would give companies a tax credit for the construction, purchase, or lease of their first domestic manufacturing facility if it is built in the US. This will enable our nation to receive a greater return on our investment in R&D by locating manufacturing facilities and jobs here. I am also working closely with my colleagues in Congress, industry, and academia on the authorizing legislation and funding that will be needed to establish the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation envisioned by President Obama. These centers will help promote advanced manufacturing in the United States, and Silicon Valley’s unique combination of universities and an industry in which competitors are also capable of collaboration makes it a perfect place to location one of these centers, which I am working to achieve.
450 mm Wafer Transition
One of my big concerns for the future of Silicon Valley is the ability of the US to maintain its global leadership in the semiconductor manufacturing equipment industry. The U.S.-based semiconductor equipment industry develops and manufactures the equipment, the tool sets that build semiconductors, the enabling technology for all electronics. This industry is responsible for the innovations that enable smarter, faster, more powerful, more efficient, and more affordable electronic devices that benefit us so greatly.
Currently, U.S. companies lead and dominate production of semiconductor manufacturing equipment with approximately 50 percent market share. Over 500 American companies in the industry manufacture roughly $18 billion worth of tools on an annual basis, 86 percent of which are exported, and employ nearly 70,000 workers in the United States.
This leadership is being challenged, though, as the semiconductor industry stands on the verge of a transition to a new, larger wafer size, 450 millimeters. This next generation technology will help to reduce per-unit costs for devices, but to get there is going to require significant financial investment in R&D to develop the new manufacturing equipment. Major transitions like this happen only every 12-15 years, and this one requires intensive and expensive research and development. It is estimated that the cost will be at least $8 billion for U.S. companies and as high as $30 billion globally.
Other nations have realized that this transition is as a prime opportunity to lure US companies and their technology overseas, and they are proposing generous government incentives to support R&D work in hopes of taking our leadership position. I am leading efforts in Congress to secure a U.S. government commitment to support the R&D needed to make the transition here. I successfully offered an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2013 Defense Appropriations Act highlighting the importance of this issue and am spearheading efforts to authorize and fund the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation proposed by President Obama, which would help support this type of advanced manufacturing.
You can read more about my thoughts on the 450 mm transition here.
Supporting Research, Development and Innovation
Unfortunately, America’s global leadership in technological advancement and innovation is being seriously challenged by other countries. To address the state of America's global competitiveness in science and technology, I worked with my colleagues on the Democratic Leader's task force to develop the Democrats’ Innovation Agenda - A Commitment to Competitiveness To Keep America #1. Working with leaders from the high-technology, venture capital, academic, biotech and telecommunications sectors, we identified and committed to the following priorities that will guarantee our national security and prosperity, expand markets for American products, and assert economic leadership throughout the world:
In 2007, Congress passed and the President signed into law the America COMPETES Act, which incorporated many important elements of the Innovation Agenda as well as recommendations included in the National Academies’ report Rising Above the Gathering Storm.
As a member of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies and Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittees, I am proud to have delivered on the funding needed to implement the America COMPETES Act in the years following its enactment.
In 2010, Congress passed and the President signed into law the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, H.R. 5116, to continue investing in American innovation. I was pleased that the bill included provisions to ensure coordination of federal Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics education programs that I originally proposed in my Enhancing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Act. You can read more about my STEM Education efforts here.
New Media Working Group
Democrats have been at the forefront of using new media in politics for more than a decade and intend to stay on the cutting edge. As the Representative from the epicenter of social media technology, I helped create the Democratic Caucus New Media Working Group to give Members of Congress the tools they need to reach out to their constituents through the many avenues that new media offers. President Obama has set a great example for how useful the Internet can be in energizing supporters, informing the public and creating an open dialogue with the American people. Now, the American public expects (and deserves!) a government that uses these tools to give them opportunities to participate in all levels of the political process.
You can read more about my work with the New Media Working Group here.
While serving as a member of the Science Committee, I partnered with Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) to enact legislation to encourage the development of nanotechnology in the United States. The emerging fields of nanoscience and nanoengineering (collectively, “nanotechnology”), which allow the control of materials at the atomic level, are leading to unprecedented scientific and technological opportunities that will benefit society by changing the way many items are designed and made, in areas such as electronics, medicine, energy, biotechnology, and information technology. According to various estimates, including those of the National Science Foundation, the market for nanotechnology products and services in the United States alone could reach over $1 trillion later this century. You can read more about the bill and the potential of nanotechnology here.
Following enactment of this important bill, I convened the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Nanotechnology with State Controller Steve Westly. This distinguished group, whose diverse membership drew from academia, government, established industry, startup companies, consulting groups, non-profits, and industry associations throughout California, debated ideas and developed a series of policy recommendations that are included in the report Thinking Big About Thinking Small. You can read more about the work of the task force here.
Many of the recommendations of the task force are reflected in a bill I introduced, the Nanotechnology Advancement and New Opportunities (NANO) Act, designed to respond to the ways in which the field has evolved over the past few years. The NANO Act would focus America’s nanotechnology research and development programs on areas of national need such as energy, health care, and the environment, and have provisions to help assist in the commercialization of nanotechnology. The bill also addresses the uncertainty that is one of the major obstacles to the commercialization of nanotechnology – uncertainty about what the health and safety risks might be and uncertainty about how the federal government might regulate nanotechnology in the future – by requiring the development of a nanotechnology research plan that will ensure the development and responsible stewardship of nanotechnology.
Other important areas that are addressed by my bill include:
Read an opinion piece for the San Jose Mercury News about why I believe that government support is needed for nanotechnology innovation.
I am also working to address these issues through my role on the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over many of the key agency participants in the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The Fiscal Year 2013 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act (P.L. 113-6) includes language I developed to ensure that the National Nanotechnology Initiative supports the R&D needed for responsible development of nanotechnology.
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