Advanced science and technology policy system

Although the degree of importance to science and technology attached by US government and focuses of directions it has is different at different times, the basic principles supporting the development of science and technology by the government have remained unchanged. That is, the government has the responsibility and obligation to support scientific and technological innovation and promote the use of science and technology in the service of the country’s interests. At the same time, the government makes full use of market mechanisms to guide private capital to participate in science and technology innovation activities, and promotes the industrialization of science and technology so as to avoid directly intervening in applications and technological development studies. In the US national development strategy, the policy of science and technology innovation has always occupied an important position.

First of all, the US government encourages individuals, enterprises, and research institutes to carry out scientific research through the tax-exempt and refund policies on investment in research institutions and R&D. Given that the US government has long been known as the so-called “small government”, the government has limited means of direct intervention in science, technology, and economic activities. Therefore, taxation policies have become its major policy lever. In addition to direct subsidies, tax exemptions and tax incentives are important means by which the government supports the industrialization of scientific research and technological achievements. US policies and laws clearly stipulate that the scientific research institutes and research activities enjoy preferential tax and tax exemptions from tax treatment: the government-affiliated scientific research institutes are exempt from income tax—if anyone donates to a government-affiliated scientific research institute, donors can obtain corresponding tax reduction treatment; the university is an important force engaged in fundamental research in the United States—it can be exempted from tax treatment as an “educational institution”; for an independent scientific research institution, as long as it is a non-profit organization, and is engaged in “public welfare scientific research activities”, it’s qualified to enjoy tax-free treatment. The US Tax Reform Act enacted by the government in 1986 also stipulated that all commercial enterprises and institutions should receive a tax reimbursement equivalent to 20% of the added value if their funding for research and development increased compared to the previous period. The term of the tax reimbursement is valid until 1995, but thereafter the term of the Act continues to extend. In February 2000, the US Congress passed the Network and Information Technology Research Act to perpetuate the applicable period of the tax reimbursement.

Second, the United States has enacted a comprehensive system of intellectual property that effectively protects the achievements of science and technology patents and promotes their diversion and use. Intellectual property rights in the United States can be divided into industrial intellectual property rights (such as patents and trademarks) and non-industrial intellectual property rights (such as right of signatures and right of performance). Among these, industrial intellectual property is related most directly to the progress of science and technology and the industrialization of scientific and technological achievements. In the field of science and technology, the intellectual property found in fundamental research is basically honorable, while the technological invention of intellectual property, mainly the patent right, most directly promotes the industrialization of scientific and technological achievements. The United States has long had a historical tradition of protecting intellectual property rights. These protective measures have played an important role in promoting the development of American business. In recent years, with the development of “new economy”, intellectual property has become an increasingly important factor of production. Against this background, the US intellectual property policy has strengthened its export of the concept of its intellectual property protection to the world and has extended the coverage of patents to fundamental research. In the field of transformation of scientific and technological achievements, the United States has implemented in recent years a new measure for the protection of intellectual property—the “provisional patent”. This measure is mainly aimed at those who have already graduated from the basic theory stage and have a product which has a potential commercial value but are still not likely to apply for a patent with both academic and potential applications. They can apply for a provisional patent pending further study progress and then apply for an official patent.

The scope of this measure is broader and more ambiguous than the true patent system and the application process is simpler. The period of protection is generally of one year, and only the holder of the “provisional patent” can, within the time limit and the scope of protection, propose a patent application. In addition to the protection of intellectual property, the US government has actively promoted the transfer of government-owned intellectual property rights to enterprises. In 1980, the US Congress passed the Bayh-Dole Act, which stipulates that research institutes (universities, federal laboratories, etc.) can have patents of any public-funded scientific research and can engage in further development and conversion activities. In 1996, the government also enacted the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act to further promote the transformation of the federal scientific and technological achievements.

Finally, the US science and technology policies and industrial policies protect and support the development of the country’s commerce and industry on the basis of promoting fair and effective competition in the domestic market. For a long time, for enterprises, especially the high-tech enterprises, the US government, apart from giving some preferential tax treatment, mainly adopts the policy of “non-intervention” and makes full use of the market mechanism to guide and encourage individuals and enterprises to exert their own creativity. Even when forced to intervene, the aim of the government is to encourage free competition rather than limit competition. However, the “free and fair competition” supported by the US government is limited to domestic enterprises. Once foreign competition is involved, the US government no longer adopts a “neutral” stance but explicitly supports its own enterprises. In terms of technological innovation, the US government’s massive involvement in and support for its own businesses began in the 1980s. At the beginning, Japan’s rapid development in the semiconductor industry posed a serious challenge to the industrial competitiveness of the United States, causing the US government to change its neutral stance. The Sematech initiative was the first large-scale US government-enterprise partnership in technology innovation that aimed to improve the technology in the US semiconductor industry. After the 1990s, the Clinton administration launched a series of “government-enterprise” partnership programs including: “Advanced Technology Plan” and “Manufacturing Technology Promotion Plan” under the auspices of the Standards Technology Research Institute under the Ministry of Commerce; the “Technology Reinvestment Program” of the Ministry of National Defense in order to promote the technology transfer from army to civil areas; the “American Textile Partnership Program” jointly undertaken by 12 laboratories under the Ministry of Energy and 82 textile companies; the Architecture and Construction Plan participated by six departments, agencies, institutes, etc.—such as the Ministry of Energy, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology Department, coordinated by the

National Science and Technology Commission—to improve the construction technology in the United States; the “Innovation Research Project for SMEs” under Bureau of Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises; and so on. One of the generally accepted principles is that the government support on technological innovation activities should be limited to the “precompetition” stage, with special attention paying to balancing the rights and obligations of enterprises participating in the relevant plans and avoiding the benefits of minority businesses from government programs. That is, it has not been in the stage of forming a product with actual market prospects. However, with the intensification of global competition, since the 1990s, the US government’s policy of supporting enterprises has been expanding its industrialization stage of technological innovation, and “pre-competition stage” is changing.

Large number of ongoing scientific research funds

However, the US government believes that it must invest a great deal of R&D funds to support exploratory research and experiments, projects, and innovation activities that individual enterprises, research institutes, or industries as a whole cannot carry out. This direct subsidy from the government for technological innovation not only helps private enterprises and research institutes to generate new knowledge, develop new technologies, and ensure the continuity of scientific research, but also ultimately enables them to obtain commercial benefits so as to enhance the scientific and technological strength and national competitiveness of the United States, increases employment, and improves people’s livelihood so as to contribute to the realization of the ultimate goal of the government.

After World War II, the US government investment in scientific research has always ranked the highest in the world, in terms of both the total amount and its share of GDP, and has been steadily increasing year by year. The share of investment in research in terms of GDP for the US government rose from 1.5% in 1955 to 2.8% in 1986. Since 1990, the proportion of investment in research has been above 3%. After World War II, the US government directly invested in R&D funds to enterprises in the form of numerous commercial contracts. Currently, 12% of industry research funding comes from the federal government, most of which are provided through commercial contracts, and the largest payer of commercial contracts is military industry. In 1950, the US federal government spent about 2.7 billion US dollars on scientific research, of which 1.4 billion US dollars was paid to enterprises. In 1990, the federal government spent 67.7 billion US dollars on research, of which 28 billion US dollars was paid to enterprises, accounting for 45% of the total. In 1997, the US government invested 200 billion US dollars on R&D funds, surpassing the total R&D expenditures of Japan, Germany, France, and Britain. The allocation of resources for research funding in the United States is also very stable. From the 1960s to the 1990s, funding for fundamental research, applied research, and experimental development has been stable with less volatile, the range of which is from 12% to 15%, from 21% to 24%, and from 61% to 67%. In recent years, with the increasing need for anti-terrorism and the actual welfare brought by the “new economy” to American society becoming increasingly clear, the consensus of all sectors of society on the importance of science and technology has been strengthened and the federal government has obviously stepped up its investment in science and technology. In the 2000 fiscal year budget, the US government’s proposal for science and technology investment was of 77.9 billion US dollars. The final approval bill by the Congress increased to 83.3 billion US dollars. As a result, the investment in science and technology increased by 5% over the previous year, surpassing the inflation rate and the economic growth rate. In early 2000, Clinton announced “an unprecedented investment of 3 billion US dollars in research funds for the 21st century”. In 2005, the US federal government’s investment in national defense and non-defense research and development reached 74.98 billion US dollars and 57.22 billion US dollars respectively—up by 6.8% and 2.2% respectively over 2004—accounting respectively for 56.7% and 43.3% of the total federal R&D investment. In 2006, the federal government spent a total of 132 billion US dollars on research and development. In the following year, the US federal government said that in the next ten years, it would double its research funding for science and technology projects, mainly in R&D areas such as nanotechnology, supercomputer applications, and new energy development.

Although the United States is the most steadfast country in the world in embracing and promoting a liberal market economy, the US government has played a key role in promoting the development of the nation’s science and technology and the construction of the innovation system, and it totally subverts its national image of “big society, small government”. Decades after World War II, the US government constantly adjusted its intervention methods and levels of intervention in science and technology innovation activities and became a leading great power in technology in the current world through the establishment of a sound legal system, sound policies on science and technology, and continued substantial scientific investment.

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