Bring on Al Gore, Dammit

Election ’08: Seeking a ‘Tech President’
Business Week (09/19/07) Ricadela, Aaron

Presidential candidates are courting the tech sector, partly because Silicon Valley has become a key fundraising source. “We want to make sure the next President is a ‘tech President’–that they understand how innovation happens and have some concrete ideas about how to keep the tech economy growing,” says Google’s Adam Kovacevich.

Among the promises candidates are making to the tech industry to capture funding and support is a boost in the federal research and development budget, greater importation of highly educated foreign workers into the United States, and improvements to U.S. math and science education. Major tech companies have a big stake in an increase in federal R&D funding, as they stand to gain tremendously from new markets engendered by technology breakthroughs.

President Bush allocated $22 billion to the National Science Foundation, $17 billion to the Energy Department’s Office of Science, and $2.7 billion to the National Institute of Standards & Technology from 2008 to 2010 with his signing of the America Competes Act, but congressional appropriation of the funding has yet to occur, so tech companies are proceeding with caution.

A curtailing of allegedly trivial, innovation-choking litigation by patent holders through patent reform is also desirable by the tech sector. Tech companies also want more foreign workers allowed in the country to fill a void in the tech workforce.

Meanwhile, Democrats highly favor proposals to improve the state of math, science, engineering, and computer science education in grades K through 12; Democrats Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama want broader changes than simple funding increases, with Clinton pledging to vastly raise the size and number of NSF fellowships, and make diversity a required criterion for federal education and research grants to encourage women and minorities to pursue math, science, and engineering-related fields.