United States

Image description here.

The United States has long been, and still is, at the forefront of cutting-edge science, technology and innovation. However, indicators such as business innovation surveys and data on growth of multi-factor productivity suggest that the US lead is narrowing in spite of its world-class universities and global technology companies. R&D and patenting by businesses have also grown less rapidly than in the past. The 2009 Strategy for American Innovation: Driving towards Sustainable Growth and Quality Jobs, which was updated and re-released in February 2011, provides the strategic directions for government policies to further an innovation-based economy.

Hot Issues

Hot Issues are major national STI policy priorities, as self-reported by countries in their responses to the OECD STIO 2014 policy questionnaire.

Improving the framework conditions for innovation (including competitiveness)

Overall, US STI policy is oriented to job creation, laying the foundations for future industries, and improving economic competitiveness. Several reforms to the patent system aim to bolster innovation. The America Invents Act of 2011 switched the US patent regime from the previous “first to invent” to a ”first to file” system for patent applications filed on or after 16 March 2013. The Act also aims to improve patent quality and increase inventors’ ability to protect intellectual property abroad. The US Patent and Trademark Office now offers a fast-track option for processing a patent within 12 months, reducing patent backlogs and limiting litigation.

Strengthening public R&D capacity and infrastructures

Overall, the United States has the world’s largest and strongest science base, although this may not be very apparent in the aggregate performance indicators, which are around or below the OECD median (Panel 1a, b, c). For instance, the United States is home to 35 of the world’s top 50 universities, and accounts for 26% of the world’s articles in science and engineering. In addition to generating many publications, universities and PRIs are active in filing patents (Panel 1p), especially in bio- and nano- technologies (Panel 3). Under the President’s Plan for Science and Innovation, the federal government prioritises investing in basic research capacity and in robust research infrastructure, including cyber infrastructure. Its support of basic and applied research increased from USD 59 billion in 2008 to a proposed USD 68.1 billion in 2014. In the 2014 budget, research accounts for 48% of total government R&D funding, up from 39% in 2008, with a concomitant decline in the share of development funding.

Improving overall human resources, skills and capacity building

With the second highest share of GDP spent on higher education in the OECD area, the United States has a good skills foundation and a high share of tertiary-qualified workforce (Panel 1s, t). However, there has been a relative decline in doctoral graduates in science and engineering and 15-year-olds perform below the OECD median in science (Panel 1w, v). The federal government is committed to improving STEM education at all levels to nurture a highly skilled, competitive US workforce for the future. President Obama’s call for a new effort to prepare 100 000 STEM teachers was renewed in 2013, and in June 2013 the Five-Year Strategic Plan for Federal STEM Education (2013-17) was released. The 2014 budget sets a goal of increasing by a third (or by one million) the number of well-prepared college graduates with STEM degrees over the next decade. The federal budget invests USD 3.1 billion overall in programmes on STEM education.

Innovation to contribute to sustainable/green growth

The federal government envisions a United States that leads the world in the research, development, demonstration and deployment of clean energy technology. The 2014 budget proposed USD 7.9 billion for clean energy technologies; USD 379 million for transformational energy R&D in advanced research projects of the Department of Energy (DOE), and USD 2.8 billion for DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office, with a focus on improving clean vehicles and on developing advanced materials.<br /> <br /> A Climate Action Plan was announced in June 2013 to address the impacts of global climate change. The 2014 budget proposes USD 2.7 billion for the US Global Change Research Programme (USGCRP) to better understand, predict, mitigate and adapt to global climate change.

Improving returns and impact of science

A government-wide policy mandating increased public access to scientific publications and digital data resulting from federally funded research was issued in 2013 and will be further implemented in 2014. Additionally, a second Open Government National Plan was released, which revised the Plan of 2012. In 2013, data.gov, which provides information and tools to leverage federal datasets, was expanded to improve public access.

Country Charts

Image description here.Image description here.
Image description here.Image description here.

Selected Highlights

STI policy governance

Because of fiscal austerity, federal R&D investments are expected to decrease from USD 147 billion in 2010 to USD 142.7 billion in 2014, but then to rebound. Efforts have been made to strengthen STI policy and evaluation. In 2013, new guidance was published to strengthen the federal grant-making process by streamlining eight federal regulations to be fully implemented in 2014. Federal agencies jointly identified a Roadmap for Science of Science Policy (SOSP) in 2008 and have been working since to improve evaluation and impact assessment of science. In addition, the National Science Foundation is carrying out a research programme on the Science of Science and Innovation Policy to build an analytical and knowledge base for SOSP and an academic SOSP community.

New sources of growth

The 2014 federal budget invests USD 2.9 billion in order to create high-quality manufacturing jobs and make America a magnet for manufacturing. The aim is to expand R&D on innovative manufacturing processes, advanced industrial materials and robotics, to encourage entrepreneurship, and to improve the transition from discovery to the marketplace.

New challenges

Improving the health of Americans, while maintaining American leadership in biomedical research and building the bioeconomy of the future, is an emerging policy issue. The Administration is committed to funding health research with a focus on neuroscience and on increasing the impact of these investments on health outcomes. Launched with USD 100 million in 2014, the BRAIN initiative searches for new ways to treat, cure and prevent brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy and traumatic brain injury.

Innovation in firms

While public funding of business R&D has declined since 2008, primarily because of declines in defence budgets, more emphasis has recently been placed on direct support for business R&D and innovation. The Research and Experimentation Tax Credit expired in 2013, however, negotiations continue on a retroactive extension. Over the next several years, a greater share of US R&D investments for competitive R&D grants will go to small businesses and small business-led consortia. Technology consulting services/extension programmes were introduced in 2013 with a focus on manufacturing and new firms arising from advances in basic research. The US government continues to propose expansions of loan guarantees and risk-sharing mechanisms, particularly in the clean-energy sector.

Technology transfers and commercialisation

US federal agencies continue to make progress on reshaping their priorities and programmes to meet the goals laid out in the President’s October 2011 Memorandum on Accelerating Technology Transfer and Commercialization of Federal Research in Support of High Growth Businesses. The environment for innovative entrepreneurship is very good (Panel 1h, j). In late 2011, the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programmes were re-authorised through 2017 and expanded. The SBIR funds R&D and innovation activities in SMEs and young firms, and the STTR supports collaboration on R&D by SMEs and universities.

Clusters and regional policies

The federal government works with agencies such as the Small Business Administration and the Economic Development Administration to develop regional clusters on advanced technologies (e.g. robotics, energy, cybersecurity), food systems, broadband and recreation. The Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship promotes entrepreneurship at the regional level through the i6 Challenge, a multiagency competitive grant programme.