Tech CEOs Try To Influence Innovation Policies Of Presidential Candidates - InformationWeek

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Tech CEOs Try To Influence Innovation Policies Of Presidential Candidates

The Technology CEO Council has met with U.S. presidential candidates of both parties to urge them to embrace policies that promote innovation and competitiveness.

To remain a globally competitive powerhouse, the U.S. needs policies that embrace openness in trade and talent, promotes innovation and entrepreneurial spirit, and builds upon the country's information infrastructure, says a report released Wednesday by a council of top U.S. technology executives.

The "Great Nation" report by advocacy group Technology CEO Council aims to shape the thinking and policies of U.S. presidential candidates as the country prepares for next year's election, said Bruce Mehlman, executive director of the council, in an interview.

"Not since 1928 has there been a presidential election where no incumbent president or vice president was on the ticket," he said. And so, "the candidates' views are significant because their positions on trade and openness will directly impact U.S. policy" in the near future and beyond, he said.

"We want to make sure they flesh out their public policies to match their private vision," he said. The council's private meetings with candidates so far -- both in the Democratic and Republican parties -- show "all are receptive" to the technology CEO's views about "innovation and global interconnectiveness," he said. He declined to name which presidential candidates the council's members have meet with.

The group hopes candidates will embrace policies that "promote openness and inclusiveness to global markets," as well as help the nation attract "the best and brightest workers" worldwide.

Along those lines, the technology sector has for several years, and especially recently, been lobbying for changes that would allow more foreign technology professionals to work in the U.S. under the nation's H-1B temporary visa program, as well as streamline green card processes for many of those workers to more easily gain permanent residency in the U.S.

Some of those provisions -- including raising the H-1B visa cap -- were part of the Senate's recent comprehensive immigration reform bill and amendment proposals that now have stalled.

If the immigration reform package fails to regain steam in Congress, chances for any change in H-1B visa policies -- including raising the cap -- anytime soon are also unlikely, said Mehlman. That's because attention in Washington D.C. will be increasingly focused on the presidential election, not on passing piecemeal immigration-related legislation.

Not everyone, however, is certain that changes in the H-1B systemis dead this year, even if comprehensive immigration legislation ends up being stillborn.

"I think the situation is highly fluid," said Ron Hira, assistant professor of public policy on leave from Rochester Institute of Technology, and research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, in an e-mail. "There has been a lot of lobbying on high-skill immigration so it is likely that something happens by this year, though it isn't clear what that something is and what vehicle will be used to move it, whether its comprehensive, standalone, etc," he said.

In its report, the Technology CEO Council also urges the U.S. to embrace policies and programs that encourage more people to enter science, technology engineering, and mathematical fields; push patent reform and R&D tax credits that promotes innovation and entrepreneurial spirit; and continued to promote the country's information infrastructure to ensure that the country is progressing with "cutting edge" advancements in telecommunications, health-care and energy.

Members of the council include Joe Tucci, CEO of EMC; Paul Otellini, President and CEO of Intel; Ed Zander, Chairman and CEO of Motorola and current council chairman; Michael Dell, Chairman and CEO of Dell; Mark Hurd, Chairman, President and CEO of Hewlett-Packard; Joseph McGrath, President and CEO of Unisys; William Nuti, President and CEO of NCR, and Sam Palmisano, Chairman, President and CEO of IBM.

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