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Think Tanks Propose National Innovation Foundation

Such a foundation would serve as a catalyst between industry and university researchers and seek to expand regional innovation through state governments.

A branch of the Brookings Institution's think tank has called for a National Innovation Foundation to arrest the United States' declining role in worldwide research and development. The U.S. share of worldwide R&D spending fell from 43% in 1986 to 37% in 2003.

The decline has probably continued since then as the emerging economies of China, India, and Russia invest more heavily in research. The U.S. lead in R&D could continue to shrink without an explicit federal policy to encourage innovation, said Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a technology think tank, during an event earlier this week at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Atkinson was commenting on a report written by himself and Howard Wial, an economist of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, a unit of the Brookings Institution, titled, "Boosting Productivity, Innovation And Growth Through A National Innovation Foundation."

Such a foundation would serve as a catalyst between industry and university researchers and seek to expand regional innovation through state governments. Such a foundation could be modeled after the National Science Foundation and would require about $400 million to get under way. As its role grew, it would be funded with $1 billion a year, Atkinson predicted.

The U.S. research and development tax credit was once one of the largest in the world. It now ranks 17th among the top 30 industrialized nations, Atkinson pointed out.

"Over the last decade, the share of U.S. corporate R&D sites declined from 59% to 52% within the U.S., while they increased from 8% to 18% in China and India," a copy of the report posted to the Brookings Institution's Web site states.

There is no national policy to encourage innovation and no systematic partnership between the federal and state governments to find more ways to do so, the report states.

There have been previous attempts to fund more research, such as the America Competes Act, hailed by President George Bush and Democratic leaders of Congress. But it was never fully funded because of budget pressures, Atkinson said.

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