Though some areas of the country have become famous for high-tech innovation–such as Silicon Valley, Austin, Texas, and Seattle–all congressional districts in the U.S. have both investments and contributions in the high-tech space and should be treated as such, according to a recent report by the Information Technology Innovation Foundation (ITIF).
“The country’s innovation-driven, high-tech economy really is much more widely diffused than most people imagine,” said Robert D. Atkinson, ITIF’s president. “We urge members of Congress and other policymakers to find common cause in advancing an agenda that continues to build up the foundations of an innovation-driven economy, including a highly skilled workforce, robust research and development spending, digital-age infrastructure, and globally competitive tech-driven industries. It’s the surest way to raise productivity, bolster competitiveness, and boost wages.”
The report found that the high-tech industry employs approximately 30,000 people for each of the 435 congressional districts, and that each district has at least a few dozen innovators that have filed patent applications in the past few years. The report also found a correlation between Federal R&D funding and the number of STEM workers and available STEM jobs in a particular district.
However, the report also claims that, because high-tech advancements are seen as the territory of a few U.S. cities, they aren’t given as much national attention by policymakers.
“An unfortunate result of this myopia has been that policy debates about how to bolster the country’s innovative capacity have often been seen as the province of only the few members of Congress who represent districts or states that are recognizably tech-heavy, while many members from other districts focus on other issues,” authors John Wu, Adams Nager, and Joseph Chuzhin wrote in the report. “This needs to change, not only because the premise is incorrect, but also because the country’s competitive position in the global economy hinges on developing a broad-based, bipartisan, bicameral understanding and support for Federal policies to spur innovation and growth.”
The report recommends six strategy essentials for fostering high-tech innovation in all parts of the country: a highly educated workforce, public investment in research and development, digital infrastructure, “smart government” policies such as the “Smart Cities” initiative, tax policies that encourage technological investment, and strong connections to the global marketplace.
“All districts have some kind of tech-driven activity occurring locally,” said Atkinson. “In some places, it’s because long-established industries such as agriculture, mining, or manufacturing are rapidly evolving into tech-enabled industries. In others, it’s because new developments such as cloud computing and ubiquitous access to Internet service allow innovators to create new, IT-enabled enterprises in any small town or rural area they may choose. But either way, this serves as a signal to every member of Congress that tech matters to their state and district.”
The report also includes in-depth state and local profiles as well as statistics on high-tech manufacturing, employment, and services in each area.