Bipartisan R&D bill arrives next week

A bipartisan Senate bill to be introduced next week will include a provision for 5,000 agency-funded graduate fellowships for scientists and engineers.

The legislation is intended to restore America’s competitive edge in the global economy through education and investment, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) said.

At yesterday’s press conference, held in conjunction with Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) and the nonprofit Council on Competitiveness, Lieberman said the draft will be based on a 2004 report from the council, “Innovate America: Thriving in a World of Challenge and Change.”

The senators stressed that the current talent base is a major concern for future research and development.

“I want this country to be a magnet for the best minds,” said Sen. George Allen (R-Va.). “I want to double the number of engineers in the next 10 years.”

Next week’s legislation also will stimulate R&D through an "innovation acceleration" grants program, which was recommended in the council's report.

“Our goal is to get these recommendations into the [fiscal] 2007 budget,” Lieberman said. Comparing today’s contest to the 1980s rivalry with Japan, he added, “there are more players in the game and the level of the competition has changed.”

Allen said it is important to first craft a tangible action plan for any budgetary increase, such as channeling funds to the scholarship program.

Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) also endorsed the forthcoming legislation at the event.

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