Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Durbin proposes American Innovation Act to fund scientific research at 1871 Press Conference

Sen. Dick Durbin announces American Innovation Act

Sen. Dick Durbin speaks at 1871 about the American Innovation Act, which seeks to increase funding for basic research 5 percent, or $100 billion, over the next ten years. (Amina Elahi, Blue Sky / Mar. 16, 2015)

By Amina Elahi Blue Sky Reportercontact the reporter

What the American Innovation Act seeks to accomplish, according to Sen. Dick Durbin
Sen. Dick Durbin announced plans Monday for legislation that he said would keep the U.S. competitive in research and development for decades.

Durbin said his American Innovation Act seeks to increase funding for basic scientific research 5 percent, or $100 billion, over the next 10 years. He made his announcement at the 1871 tech hub and said he plans to introduce the bill next week.

“This American Innovation Act will make funding for critical science research less political and more predictable,” Durbin said. At Monday’s event, he accepted a Champion of Science award from the Science Coalition, a Washington-based nonprofit that promotes federal funding for basic science research.

Durbin said the bill would lift automatic spending caps and provide funding to benefit the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science and the Department of Defense Science and Technology programs, among others. Based on current trends, he said, China’s investment in research and development could surpass U.S. investments by 2020.

Last March, Durbin introduced the American Cures Act, which would support funding of biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others. He proposed 5 percent growth in funding, or $150 billion, for this initiative.

Durbin said the combined $250 billion that he has proposed represents a small percentage of federal spending. Biomedical research is only “half the story,” he said.

“That's why we are moving forward with this American Innovation Act, to complement the biomedical research with investments in other agencies that can make a dramatic difference in the world that we live in,” Durbin said.

The senator recognized representatives from a number of the state's universities, including Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois.

Kenneth Brezinsky, associate dean for research and graduate studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, emphasized the need for long-term funding for continuity and to keep students in the field.
“Beginning the funding cycle now so that it might create enthusiasm for 10-year, 15-, 20-year continuous support for science is exactly what we have to do,” he said, “because it's momentum and continuity that leads to successful scientific output.”

Caralynn Nowinski , executive director and COO of UI Labs, said Durbin's proposed legislation sets a good example for how the government can encourage the private sector to support innovation.

“Without this kind of commitment to basic research endeavors, the U.S. is threatening its long-term competitiveness,” Nowinski said. “I particularly am excited for what this means in providing a foundation for what can be done in applied research and beyond.”

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