January 12, 2011
On January 4, 2011, President Obama signed the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, reauthorizing "various programs intended to strengthen research and education" related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The continuation of this Act is an important step for the federal government to support economic innovation through investment in research and development and education. The America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Act reauthorization continues the growth of budgets for the Department of Energy's Office of Science, the laboratories of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Science Foundation. It supports ARPA-E, an energy-research program designed to reduce dependence on foreign oil while stimulating a green economyand supplements ongoing work of the Administration to enhance STEM education. And it allows every federal agency to conduct "prize competitions" to solve difficult national problems (read more about this component of the Act at the Washington Post). Of significant regional interest is that the legislation authorizes the creation of a "regional innovation program" to "encourage and support the development of regional innovation strategies, including regional innovation clusters." A new competitive grant program would make awards available to regional cluster initiatives on a matching basis.
While innovation is often led by the private sector, government too can play a role in supporting and fostering economic innovation, as shown by the America COMPETES Act. To learn more about what can be done at the regional level to support economic innovation, visit www.cmap.illinois.gov/2040/support-economic-innovation.