Strategy for American Innovation: Appendix A: Invest in the Building Blocks of American Innovation

Home | Executive Summary | Introduction | Invest in Building Blocks | Market-Based Innovation | Catalyze Breakthroughs | Appendix A | Appendix B | Appendix C

Educate Americans with 21st century skills and create a world-class workforce

Improve America's science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education

The President is determined to improve the participation and performance of America’s students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  To that end, the President has pledged to prepare an additional 100,000 STEM teachers by the end of the decade, with strong teaching skills and deep content knowledge.  Moreover, as part of this commitment, President Obama launched the Educate to Innovate campaign on November 23, 2009 (See Box 4).  The goals of the Educate to Innovate campaign are three-fold:

  • Increase STEM literacy so that all students can learn deeply and think critically in science, math, engineering, and technology.
  • Move American students from the middle of the pack to the top in the next decade.
  • Expand STEM education and career opportunities for underrepresented groups, including women and girls.

Box 4: The Government as a Partner in Educate to Innovate

One of the key roles of government in promoting innovation is to convene the relevant stakeholders and catalyze partnerships to achieve common goals.  President Obama’s Educate to Innovate campaign is an example of this kind of partnership, where the Administration, leading private sector firms, foundations, and non-profits are working together to promote science and math education across America.

Recent trends indicate that despite many high quality schools, effective teachers, and successful students, American schoolchildren are falling behind in math and science.  In the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), American students placed 17th out of 34 in science and 25th out of 34 in math among developed nations.  Our own 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) found that American 4th graders and 8th graders have shown little or no progress in math scores over the last decade.

Educate to Innovate aims to increase STEM literacy and help American students move from the middle to the top of the pack of international performance in STEM.  In addition, the campaign aims to broaden STEM education and career opportunities for underrepresented groups. 

The President’s campaign has already resulted in over $700 million in financial and in-kind support for STEM programs.  The President’s “all hands on deck” call to improve STEM education has galvanized industry, universities, foundations, science and technology centers, libraries, and science and engineering professionals to do more.  The private sector is responding not just with financial support, but with commitments that take advantage of their core competencies and the skills and passion of their employees.  Over 100 CEOs have come together to launch Change the Equation, a historic effort to scale up effective models for improving STEM education.  The President has also personally helped raise the visibility of STEM by holding the first ever White House Science Fair, meeting with students who are developing cancer therapies, water purification systems, and robotic wheelchairs.

Backup Documents: Prepare and Inspire: K-12 Education in STEM for America's Future, Supporting STEM Factsheet,Educate to Innovate Homepage

Reform elementary and secondary education

Investment in education must be accompanied by reform and innovation. The Administration is fostering a Race to the Top initiative in our nation’s schools, supporting new, state-of-the-art assessment and accountability systems that provide timely and useful information about the progress of individual students. The Administration is also devoted to ensuring that teachers are supported as professionals in the classroom, while also holding them to high professional standards.

  • The Race to the Top program uses competitive grants to encourage systematic state and local reform and significantly improve student outcomes.  Following its creation with a $4.35 billion allocation in the Recovery Act, the Administration has asked for an additional phase of Race to the Top, in response to the interest demonstrated by states and the meaningful changes states are undertaking.  The new competition would place a particular focus on cost-effective reforms that improve student achievement in an era of tight budgets and allow school districts to compete directly for funds.
  • The Investing in Innovation program provides grants to school districts and to nonprofit organizations working with school districts to validate or scale up educational strategies for which there is strong evidence of improving educational outcomes, or to develop and test promising practices for which there is potential but whose efficacy has not yet been systematically studied.
  • The Administration is working with Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act with a new approach.  This Act (as most recently reauthorized by the No Child Left Behind Act) is the major federal law regarding K-12 education.  The Administration’s Blueprint for Reform will create a context for innovation by ensuring that states set clear, high standards that meaningfully signify readiness for college and a career.
  • The President’s FY 2012 Budget includes funding to support School Turnaround Grants, which will support vigorous interventions for 5,000 of the nation’s lowest-performing schools over the next five years, designed to drive change, improve student achievement, and transform school culture.

Backup documents: Race to the Top executive summary, Race to the Top legislation and regulations, Phase 1 applications, scores, and comments, Phase 2 applications, Phase 2 finalist press release, President Obama's announcement of the FY11 budget request for $1.35B -  "Speeding up the Race to the Top", Department of Education -  Resources About ESEA Reauthorization, Current ESEA language, A Blueprint for Reform, Research Behind the Obama Administration’s Proposal for Reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).President Obama Announces Steps to Reduce Dropout Rate and Prepare Students for College and Careers, FY2011 Budget Factsheet - Department of Education

Restore America to first in the world in college attainment

President Obama is committed to ensuring that America will again have the highest proportion of students graduating from college in the world by 2020.  To accomplish this goal, the President is committed to increasing higher education access and success by restructuring and expanding college financial aid, by improving opportunities at community colleges, by encouraging partnerships with the public workforce system, and by leveraging business and nonprofit investments in our workforce. 

  • The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (HCERA), signed in March 2010, makes all federal loans—Stafford loans, PLUS loans, and consolidation loans—available directly to students, ending wasteful subsidies once paid to third-party administrators.  By saving a projected $68 billion in subsidies over the next 11 years, the direct loan program allows for deficit reduction while also increasing college affordability.  In addition to provisions in the Recovery Act, provisions of the HCERA invest more than $40 billion in the Pell Grant program.  Pell Grants can be applied toward traditional college expenses as well as to vocational and adult education programs.
  • Through the $2 billion Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program, the Administration is investing in community colleges and other institutions of higher education to help expand and improve their ability to deliver education and career training programs that will prepare participants for employment in high-wage, high-skill occupations.  The Program is designed to have a lasting impact on higher education by building on evidence-based strategies, testing innovative approaches, and using data collection and evaluation to build knowledge about which strategies help students succeed.  Furthermore, the National Science Foundation is investing in community colleges through its Advanced Technological Education program.
  • President Obama has established the Task Force on Skills for America’s Future to build better partnerships between businesses, community colleges, and other training providers to get Americans trained for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

In bolstering higher education, the Administration also recognizes an important obligation to support educational institutions that provide opportunity to students in the rural heartland of America.

Backup documents:Reforming Student Loans, Paving the Road to Opportunity, Investing in Pell Grants to Make College Affordable, Building American Skills Through Community Colleges, Presidential Memorandum–Task Force on Skills for America's Future, President Obama to Announce Launch of Skills for America’s Future, Skills for America's Future

Create a first-class system of early education

Quality early education is an important component in closing achievement gaps and helping every child reach his or her full potential.  The Administration has an ambitious agenda for raising quality by measuring performance, setting standards, and spurring innovation.

  • The Child Care and Development Block Grant provides funding to states for child care subsidy programs.  Under the Administration’s reform principles, states would remain the key policymakers for child care programs but would be encouraged to set higher standards for child care programs and establish quality rating improvement systems so that parents can make informed choices and providers have incentives to improve.
  • Head Start provides early education to nearly one million low-income preschoolers, infants, and toddlers.  For Head Start to fulfill its mission of providing low-income children the “head start” they need to succeed in school, lower-performing grantees either need to improve their performance or be replaced with more successful grantees.  The Administration is moving forward with an ambitious plan to better measure classroom quality in Head Start Programs and inject competition into the program by requiring lower quality programs to compete for continued funding.
  • States have been engaged in K-12 innovation for years, but less attention has been paid at the state level to examining early education and finding ways to set common standards and measure performance across programs.  The Early Learning Challenge Fund is meant to foster reform in early education and develop models for early education that can be replicated across the country.

Backup documents:Head Start Roadmap to Excellence, HHS Announces Centers for Excellence, Early Learning Challenge Fund, Department of Education’s Early Learning Homepage

Strengthen and broaden American leadership in fundamental research

Enact the largest R&D increase in our nation's history

The Administration has made the largest annual increase in research and development in American history, drawing on $18.3 billion in research funding from the Recovery Act.  The President’s FY 2012 Budget continues to emphasize investments in basic research and delivers on the President’s commitment to double funding for three key basic research agencies—the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology laboratories.  These investments will expand the frontiers of human knowledge and create the foundation for our future industries and jobs, helping establish U.S. leadership in new bio-, info-, and nanotechnologies in addition to specific areas such as robotics and “materials by design.”

Backup documents: American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009, Budget Factsheet - Investing in Innovation to Create the Industries and Jobs of Tomorrow

Set national goal to invest three percent of GDP in R&D

The President has set a goal for America to invest more than three percent of our GDP in public and private research and development.  This investment rate will surpass the level achieved at the height of the space race, and can be achieved through policies that support basic and applied research, create new incentives for private innovation, promote breakthroughs in national priority areas, and improve STEM education.  

Backup documents: Remarks by the President at the National Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting, Remarks by the President on the Economy at Carnegie Mellon University

Build a leading physical infrastructure

Fulfill a new transportation vision with high-speed rail

President Obama has set the ambitious goal of connecting 80% of Americans to the high-speed rail system within 25 years. To accomplish this he proposes sustained investments that build on the Recovery Act and would help create an efficient, high-speed passenger rail network of 100- to 600-mile intercity corridors that will better connect communities across America.  This vision builds on the successful traditional highway and aviation development models with a 21st century solution that focuses on a clean, energy-efficient option.

Backup documents: President Obama, Vice President Biden Announce $8 Billion for High-Speed Rail Projects across the Country, Vision for High Speed Rail in America

Develop the next generation of air traffic control

The Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) is a comprehensive overhaul of our national airspace system.  NextGen will make air travel more convenient and dependable for passengers, significantly reducing flight delays and increasing airport capacity, while making flights more energy-efficient, safe, and secure.  Recognizing the importance of NextGen for our economic prosperity, our environment, and our national security, President Obama’s FY 2012 Budget increases funding for this critical innovation.

Backup documents: NextGen Homepage

Create a National Infrastructure Bank

The President has proposed the creation of a National Infrastructure Bank, which will provide a new way to leverage investments in the nation’s highest priority infrastructure projects, supplementing reformed formula-grant transportation programs.  The proposal marks an important complement to traditional federal investment in infrastructure, as the Bank will base its investment decisions on clear analytical measures, selecting those projects with the greatest return for American taxpayers and leveraging private, state, and local dollars to complete projects as efficiently as possible.  The Bank will also promote multi-modal projects, which currently face significant obstacles and bureaucratic delays due to the narrow focus of existing programs that fund specific infrastructure modes.

Backup documents: President Obama Announces Plan to Renew and Expand America’s Roadways

Develop an advanced information technology ecosystem

“If transportation infrastructure was and remains a key source of competitive advantage in the industrial economy, digital infrastructure will be a key source of competitive advantage in the knowledge economy. There is no policy step more important for the digital infrastructure than assuring that scarce spectrum is efficiently allocated.”

 -  LawrenceSummers, Director, National Economic Council, June 28, 2010

Develop a nationwide, state-of-the-art communication network

The wireless revolution provides great promise for America’s future economic prosperity, and the President has announced a plan to help businesses extend the next generation of wireless services to at least 98% of Americans.  This Wireless Initiative will enable businesses to grow faster, students to learn more, and public safety officials to access secure, nationwide, and interoperable mobile communications. 

America’s ability to maintain its global technology leadership hinges critically on the availability of spectrum, as it is the currency of the wireless broadband revolution.  Hints of what this revolution has to offer – smartphones, netbooks, and the applications that run on them – are beginning to make their way into American consumer consciousness.  However, this promise is threatened by a “spectrum crunch,” a crowding of the airwaves used to transfer information wirelessly.  Experts believe that the United States will require hundreds of MHz of spectrum in coming years, but we only have 50 MHz in the pipeline for commercial use.

Globally, countries are moving aggressively to promote innovation in the wireless field; the United States must develop our digital infrastructure if we hope to maintain our edge in the ecosystems of networks, technologies, products and applications.  President Obama catalyzed this effort by signing a Presidential Memorandum committing the federal government to make available 500 MHz of federal and commercial spectrum over the next 10 years to foster investment and economic growth, and to help create jobs in these new, high-value industries.  NTIA released, in November of 2010, a ten-year plan to free up this spectrum and also issued its fast-track report that identified 115 MHz that could be repurposed for wireless broadband.

Backup documents: Presidential Memorandum: Unleashing the Wireless Broadband Revolution, Fact Sheet: Doubling the Amount of Commercial Spectrum to Unleash the Innovative Potential of Wireless Broadband, Speech Text - Technological Opportunities, Job Creation, and Economic Growth, Plan and Timetable to Make Available 500 Megahertz of Spectrum for Wireless Broadband, An Assessment of the Near-Term Viability of Accommodating Wireless Broadband Systems, NTIA Fact Sheet on Spectrum Plan and Time Table -  Fast Track evaluation

Expand access to broadband

The American broadband ecosystem has advanced rapidly.  In 2000, only eight million Americans had broadband at home; by 2009, that number had grown to 200 million.[1]  But more needs to be done. Approximately 100 million Americans still do not subscribe to broadband at home.[2]  They are operating with 20th century infrastructure in a 21st century economy.  The Recovery Act provided $6.9 billion to substantially expand broadband access for households, businesses, schools, public safety providers, and hospitals across rural America (See Box 5). 

Backup documents:The Recovery Act - Transforming the American Economy Through Innovation, Vice President Biden Announces Recovery Act Investments in Broadband Projects to Bring Jobs, Economic Opportunity to Communities Nationwide, Recovery Act Investments In Broadband: Leveraging Federal Dollars To Create Jobs And Connect America, List of Recovery Act Broadband Awards, Broadband USA 

Box 5: Government Investment In 21st Century Infrastructure: The Case of Broadband

The government can promote innovation by investing in 21st Century infrastructure.  The Recovery Act made key investments in rural broadband to reduce the disparities between urban and rural access to high speed Internet.  Through a combination of grants and loans, the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) provided over $7 billion to fund broadband projects across the nation.  NTIA funded “middle mile” projects in underserved or unserved areas, many of which are rural, and focused on expanding public computer center capacity and spurring adoption of broadband service.  RUS focused on projects that promote rural economic development and job creation beyond the construction and operation of the facilities themselves.

These investments will connect Americans to emerging opportunities in the service economy, including call centers and software development, which are particularly likely to rely on broadband access.  Beyond service industries, broadband access can support existing businesses as they maintain customer relationships, track pricing, and manage inventories more effectively.  Broadband connections can help small business owners – especially home-based businesses, which are more common in rural areas – reach new markets.  Finally, rural broadband has especially important benefits for online education and training programs and health care delivery. 

Modernize the electric grid

The Administration is currently taking steps to help modernize our nation’s electric grid.  For example, the Department of Energy is accelerating the development and deployment of advanced electric grid and digital communications technologies, and grid-scale energy storage projects, through the Smart Grid Investment Grant and Demonstration programs with $4.2 billion in Recovery Act Funds.  As part of this grid modernization effort, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is leading a public-private initiative to develop a framework and roadmap to develop smart grid interoperability standards.  The Recovery Act funding is being leveraged with more than $5.5 billion in private sector funds to deploy a wide spectrum of advanced grid technologies across the nation’s transmission and distribution system and into consumer premises.  For example, to improve system reliability, several of the Recovery Act smart grid projects involve the installation of more than 800 transmission system sensors, or “Phasor Measurement Units,” that can alert grid operators and help prevent minor disturbances from cascading into large outages.  Recovery Act funds will help install enough of these sensors to provide near 100% coverage in parts of the country’s bulk power transmission system (See Figure 1).  To oversee these initiatives and others, the Administration is collaborating with state public utility commissions, consumer groups, electric utilities, equipment manufacturers, and industry leaders to advance and develop a more cost-effective, flexible, and secure national electricity system.

Figure 1

Backup documents: Smart Grid Homepage, NIST Smart Grid Homepage, NIST Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards - Release 1.0, FERC - National Action Plan on Demand Response, National Science and Technology Council Establishes Subcommittee on Smart Grid

Secure cyberspace

The National Security Council and Homeland Security Council have provided President Obama with a strategic framework to enhance cyber security.  Under the leadership of the White House Cyber Security Coordinator, the federal government is working to secure our information infrastructure through new protocols, improved detection capabilities, and game-changing research and development, including:

  • A framework for game-changing research and development focused on three key themes: moving-target systems, security tailored to the needs of a particular transaction, and incentives that reward good cybersecurity.
  • Betterdetection of vulnerabilities and management of security systems using automated and constantly updated tools that offer enterprises of all sizes the ability to better update security compliance efforts at potentially lower costs and pave the way for future automated protocols.
  • The Administration is leading the way in better securing the Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS). The United States, working with the Internet technical community, deployed a new security technology–domain name system security (DNSSEC)–in the authoritative DNS root.  GSA and DHS have also worked to ensure that the “.gov” domain adopts better security practices, including deployment of DNSSEC.  In addition, NTIA approved the implementation of DNSSEC within the U.S. top-level domain (.us) and the domain used by academic institutions (.edu).

Backup Documents: Cyberspace Policy Review - Final Report, Fact Sheet: Cybersecurity Progress after President Obama’s Address, Networking Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Game-Change R&D Recommendations, Security Content Automation Protocol (SCAP) Validated Products, NTIA’s DNSSEC PageNational Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE)

Support research for next-generation information and communications technology

In addition to specific projects on broadband, smart grid and cybersecurity, the Administration is supporting basic research that will foster future revolutions in information technology.  These investments are coordinated through the multi-agency Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Program, which supports research in areas such as high-speed networks, next-generation supercomputers, cyber-physical systems, software engineering, and information management.

A recent review of the NITRD program by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology has identified exciting research directions that will advance information technology and address critical national challenges in health, energy, education and transportation.  The President’s FY 2012 Budget addresses these recommendations with support for research that will dramatically improve our ability to collect, store, manage and analyze the huge volumes of data that many science and engineering disciplines are now generating.

Backup Documents: NITRD Homepage, PCAST Report


[1]Federal Communications Commission, “Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan (NBP),” xi.