3rd Annual
Science & Technology
Congressional Visits Day
February 25-26, 1998

Core Messages


Members of the Coalition for Technology Partnerships and the Science-Engineering-Technology Work Group and other colleagues in the science and technology enterprise.


R&D Is An Investment . . .

The federal government supports a unique world-class research and education enterprise that fuels the American economy. This enterprise provides the underpinning of high-technology industries, expands the frontiers of knowledge, and trains future generations of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians. The federal investment in research and development (R&D) has led to job growth in new and old industries and has produced a standard of living that is unparalleled in our Nation's history.

Today, Congress is challenged with developing a plan that will bring the federal budget into balance. That goal, however, cannot be reached unless the American economy continues to grow, productivity is sustained, and inflation is held in check. According to many economists, technology is largely responsible for the enduring strength of the current economic expansion and the low rate of inflation that we have experienced in recent years. Sustaining the scientific enterprise is the key to future technological advances. Thus, federal support of research is critical to any balanced budget plan.

The Coalition for Technology Partnerships is a group of small, medium, and large businesses, trade associations, and technical societies. These groups have joined forces to demonstrate that partnerships between government and industry reflect the realities of today's budget climate and technology development mechanisms.

The Science-Engineering-Technology Work Group is an information network comprising professional, scientific, and engineering societies, higher education associations, institutions of higher learning, and trade associations. The Work Group is concerned about the future vitality of the U.S. science, mathematics, and engineering enterprise.

Return on Investment

More than 50 percent of all industrial innovation and growth in the United States since World War II can be attributed to advances pioneered through scientific research. The list of achievements is long and changing minute by minute. Results happen -- sometimes by serendipity and sometimes by design, sometimes in a few years and sometimes not for decades. Whether the applications are broad and enabling, or part of a new product or process, public science is at the core of our society's progress to date. Achievements such as computer modeling of chemical structures to design drugs, the Internet, lasers, magnetic resonance imaging, and global environmental monitoring and management are well known.

The Office of Science and Technology Policy reported in March 1995 that the United States maintains global preeminence in 25 of 27 "critical" technologies.

A 1997 study prepared for the National Science Foundation by CHI Research found that 73% of scientific articles cited in patent applications are based on research funded by government or foundations, showing industry's dependence on public science in developing the next generation of products and processes.1

R&D Rates of Return

"Economists have found high rates of return to private R&D investment, averaging 20-30 percent annual return on investment to firms, and approximately 50% to society overall. For some specific products, rates of return have been remarkably high. One study of information technology found that returns are estimated to have exceeded 80 percent per year between 1987 and 1991."

NSF FYI - Backgrounder on Economic Impact of R&D, 2/6/97

A five-year study released in 1997 showed that technology transfer from academic research added more than $21 billion supporting 180,000 jobs to the American economy each year.2

Polls show that Americans think R&D expenditures are good an investment in the future quality of life of the nation, made more urgent by international economic competition.3

Although the forecast for federal R&D funding has improved over past budget proposals, the long-term trends are still uncertain. In Fiscal Years 1994-1998, R&D funding declined by 2.5 percent in constant dollars.4 For Fiscal Year 1999, the President has requested a 2.6 percent increase for overall federal R&D and an increase of 5.8 percent for nondefense R&D. Congress provided more for R&D than the President requested in Fiscal Year 1998, and it is hoped that Congress will again meet or exceed the President's request. It is critical that federal support for research continues to grow at a time when the global competitive marketplace is forcing industry to focus increasingly on shorter-term results in areas of known industrial needs.5
1 The Increasing Linkage between U.S. Technology and Public Science, by Francis Narin, et al, CHI Research, Inc. (March 1997).
2 Association of University Technology Managers Licensing Survey, FY 1991 FY 1995 (February 1997).
3 Results of focus groups conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and Luntz Research and Strategic Services - commissioned by a group of high-tech companies.
4 American Association for the Advancement of Science, Congressional Action on R&D in the FY 1998 Budget; AAAS Preliminary Analysis of R&D in the FY 1999 Budget (2-4-98).
5 Results of an Industrial Research Institute Roundtable (August 1995).

R&D - A Continuous Process

Basic research, applied research, and development constitute a continuum from which arise new products and processes, new ideas and understanding, and new researchers and teachers. Each part of the continuum depends on the other basic research underpins applied research and the development process, which in turn often stimulate new avenues for basic research to generate deeper fundamental understanding. Moreover, advances in basic research often come as the result of advances in instrumentation that is the product of applied research and development. The R&D cycle operates as a positive-feedback loop, constantly expanding the frontiers of knowledge.

When it comes to decisions about federal support of R&D, the interrelationship between different stages of research and the long-term implications of today's decisions for our economy and people must be taken into account. To assure a future of cutting-edge medical, environmental, communications, educational, industrial and other capabilities, we must maintain the proper portfolio of basic research, applied research, and development, and we must sustain the whole.

The benefits of science and technology flow across sectors, and a box cannot be drawn around any single element of the research cycle. Neither can a box be drawn around individual disciplines; advances are taking place increasingly at the boundaries between disciplines or through collaboration among disciplines. Public- and private-sector institutions that participate in the performance of R&D all directly benefit from the transfer of new knowledge, new concepts and techniques, and new processes gained. Many government laboratories and agencies also promote technology transfer whether it is improved curriculum for educational institutions, the creation of new businesses, or the dual use of technology across agencies. Industry translates innovation into products and processes, solving national problems (energy, environment, medicine, to name a few) and creating economic growth and jobs. Examples of the continuum abound:

The Coalition for Technology Partnerships and the Science-Engineering-Technology Work Group encourage legislators to take into account the continuous nature of research, and to take a long-term view when making decisions about federal support for R&D.

The Importance of Partnerships

"The United States has unparalleled resources of science and technology. Its industrial research capability, universities, nonprofit research institutions, and federal laboratories are great national treasures. But in a time of severe financial constraints and heightened international competition, the Nation must maximize its returns on those assets...The time is ripe for bold steps to capitalize on the promise of partnership."

State-Federal Technology Partnership Task Force Report, co-chaired by former Governors Dick Thornburgh (R-PA) and Richard Celeste (D-OH)

Today, Americans are challenging their federal and state governments to scale back tax-supported programs and balance their budgets. Declining government support is forcing universities and government facilities to decrease their research activities. Never have R&D partnerships made more sense. Such partnerships allow government, industry, and university scientists and engineers to optimize their resources.

Research conducted in government, industrial, and academic laboratories varies in style and objective. Each sector's efforts complement the others' and reinforce the world-class R&D enterprise of the United States. With recent changes in commercial and financial markets, however, industry is forced to reshape its R&D goals. Not only are foreign competitors challenging U.S. industry's stature in world markets, the pressure for short-term returns from U.S. capital markets forces the Nation's industry to underfund R&D.

The federal government plays a crucial role in R&D partnerships. It can create an environment conducive to collaborations among federal, industrial, and academic researchers. For example, Cooperative Research and Development Agreements give companies access to the expertise and facilities of U.S. Department of Energy labs for specified R&D. The Department of Defense's Dual Use Applications Program provides funding to qualified U.S. industries to develop commercial technology for military applications.

Under the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Advanced Technology Program, the federal government shares the costs of research on high-risk technologies that underlie a broad spectrum of potential new applications, commercial products, and services. The Manufacturing Extension Partnership aims to accelerate the transfer of advanced manufacturing technology to small and medium-sized, U.S.-based manufacturing firms.

The Small Business Innovation Research Program and the Small Business Technology Transfer Program set aside a percentage of existing federal R&D funds to help small businesses create government-private partnerships. In addition, seven federal agencies support the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), a federal-state partnership that provides funds for research activities at universities and non-profit organizations in those states that historically have not received significant federal R&D funding.

The Coalition for Technology Partnerships and the Science-Engineering-Technology Work Group encourage legislators to sustain and enhance the federal government's role in R&D partnerships.

Loaded: January 6, 1998 (Revised February 20, 1998)