Innovation

A Bittersweet Anniversary for the U.S. Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit

The U.S. R&D tax credit, a proven tool for spurring innovation and creating jobs, has a bittersweet 30th anniversary on August 13. Bittersweet because the credit, the best R&D incentive in the world in the mid-1980s, is one of the weakest today.

This negative trend is bad for manufacturers and the economy, especially now that other countries aggressively court American manufacturers to move their domestic research by offering better and often permanent R&D tax incentives.  (To learn more about what other countries are offering, read this Deloitte survey of R&D tax incentives around the world.)

These countries have discovered the multiple spillover and societal benefits, like a higher standard of living, associated with the innovations derived from research. For sure, there has been a steady increase in the migration of domestic research offshore–the U.S. share of global R&D has dropped from 39 to 33 percent in less than a decade as more nations have entered the race to attract R&D dollars.

The credit’s power to spur innovation and create jobs hasn’t been helped by its history of lapses and retroactive extensions. Since its enactment in 1981, the credit has expired 14 times, including a one-year lapse in the mid-1990s that was never reversed—and the credit is set to expire once again at the end of this year.  The uncertainty caused by these stop-and-go credit extensions has had a damaging impact on companies’ future R&D budgets because companies cannot rely on the credit to exist for the duration of a research project, which typically spans 5 to 10 years for manufacturers.

R&D fuels innovations and technological advances that drive new product development and increased productivity—key factors necessary for growth in the manufacturing sector.  Many lawmakers are voicing repeated interest in creating a pro-manufacturing climate in the United States.  Now they can turn their words into action, specifically through enactment of H.R. 942, bipartisan legislation that would strengthen the alternative simplified research credit rate to 20 percent from its current 14 percent, and make it permanent.  There is a long history of bipartisan, bicameral congressional support as well as presidential support for a strengthened, permanent R&D tax credit.  Future anniversaries of the credit would be sweeter if the U.S. R&D tax credit’s incentive value is restored to a position of global leadership.

 
For more information about the R&D credit, visit the website of the R&D Credit Coalition.

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President Obama Visits Johnson Controls in Holland, Michigan

President Obama travels to the second happiest place in the U.S. today—Holland, Michigan.  The President is in Holland to talk about jobs and visit Johnson Controls’ advanced battery manufacturing facility.  He’s scheduled to arrive around noon central time.  (It looks like video of the arrival will be streamed here.)

The facility manufactures lithium-ion batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles.  When it is fully up and running, it will provide 320 jobs for the community.

Did you know that lithium is the lightest metal in nature?  It is.  That’s why it’s great for batteries.  According to Johnson Controls, “Its light weight and high energy and power densities make it ideal for vehicle applications where weight affects efficiency and volume affects ease and cost of packaging.”  Enhance your knowledge about lithium-ion batteries to impress your friends here.

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Manufacturing Makes an Appearance at First-Ever Twitter Town Hall

President Obama hosted a Twitter Town Hall yesterday to field questions from the tweeting public. (Here’s the transcript.)

In response to a question from “David,” the President touched on a number of issues that are important to manufacturers, like research and development incentives and the need for a strong manufacturing workforce.  The President, of course, recently endorsed the Manufacturing Institute’s Skills Certification System, and manufacturers continue to push for a strengthened and permanent R  & D tax credit.

Here’s the exchange:

MR. DORSEY:  Mr. President, 27 percent of our questions are in the jobs category, as you can see from the screen over here.  Our next question has to do about jobs and technology.  It comes from David:  “Tech and knowledge industries are thriving, yet jobs discussion always centers on manufacturing.  Why not be realistic about jobs?”

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it’s not an either/or question; it’s a both/and question.  We have to be successful at the cutting-edge industries of the future like Twitter.  But we also have always been a country that makes stuff.  And manufacturing jobs end up having both higher wages typically, and they also have bigger multiplier effects.  So one manufacturing job can support a range of other jobs — suppliers and the restaurant near the plant and so forth.  So they end up having a substantial impact on the overall economy.

What we want to focus on is advanced manufacturing that combines new technology, so research and development to figure out how are we going to create the next Twitter, how are we going to create the next Google, how are we going to create the next big thing — but make sure that production is here.

So it’s great that we have an Apple that’s creating iPods, iPads and designing them and creating the software, but it would be nice if we’re also making the iPads and the iPods here in the United States, because that’s some more jobs that people can work at.

And there are going to be a series of decisions that we’ve got to make.  Number one, are we investing in research and development in order to emphasize technology?  And a lot of that has to come from government.  That’s how the Internet got formed. That’s how GPS got formed.  Companies on their own can’t always finance the basic research because they can’t be assured that they’re going to get a return on it.

Number two, we’ve got to drastically improve how we train our workforce and our kids around math and science and technology.

Number three, we’ve got to have a top-notch infrastructure to support advanced manufacturing, and we’ve got to look at sectors where we know this is going to be the future.  Something like clean energy, for example.  For us not to be the leaders in investing in clean energy manufacturing so that wind turbines and solar panels are not only designed here in the United States but made here in the United States makes absolutely no sense.  We’ve got to invest in those areas for us to be successful.

So you can combine high-tech with manufacturing, and then you get the best of all worlds.

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Patent Reform Protects Job Creators

Yesterday was a good day for manufacturers as the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H.R. 1249, the America Invents Act, which will make the first meaningful reforms for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in nearly sixty years. “No longer will American inventors be forced to protect the technologies of today with the tools of the past,” stated Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Additionally, as reported in Politico:

“The legislation switches America to a first-to-file from a first-to-invent nation, expands the ‘prior art’ that can be used to challenge a patent and sets up a new regime to challenge patents at the patent office. In all, the legislation is designed to make patent approval swifter and make it easier to weed out low-quality patents.”

Passage will not only help with the creation of jobs, but it will also help save jobs. This legislation will give manufacturers in the U.S. the competitive advantage they need for future investments that will achieve the technological breakthroughs and groundbreaking innovation manufacturers in the U.S are known for.

Today’s coverage of the passage of H.R. 1249

  • Politico: Patent law rewrite clears House
  • The Hill: Controversial patent reform bill approved by House
  • National Journal: Industry, Universities Praises Passage of House Patent Bill
  • CNN: Patent reform is finally on its way

 

Click here to see Brian Raymond, Director of Technology and Economic Policy at the National Association of Manufacturers discuss the importance of patent reform and the America Invents Act.

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Manufacturing Changed a Generation

On Sunday the Chillicothe Gazette in Ohio ran an op-ed (“Manufacturing changes my family — and world — for the better“)  from National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons about what manufacturing has meant to his family and what the future holds for manufacturing in the United States. 

Here is a brief excerpt from the op-ed:

During the Great Depression, my grandfather waited in line for six months for a job at the Mead paper mill. For proud Americans of my grandfather’s generation, a manufacturing job represented a promise of security, a better quality of life and a path to the middle class.

As the years passed, the growth of once-vibrant manufacturing cities slowed, in part because of the changing global economy and emerging competitors abroad. And although manufacturing means jobs — exceptionally good-paying jobs — policy-makers in our nation’s capital, Republican and Democrats alike, failed to respond.

So, as a result of Washington’s neglect and misguided policy choices, it is now 18 percent more expensive to manufacture a product in the United States than in any other country. That figure doesn’t include the cost of labor.

Now more than ever manufacturers need pro-growth policies from Washington that will enable them to create jobs and compete globally. This is why the NAM will contiue to advocate for the policies outlined in the Manufacturing Strategy for Jobs and a Competitive America to boost the competitiveness of manufacturers in the U.S.

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Toyota’s U.S. Production Recovering after Japanese Earthquake

Two months after the devastating earthquake in Japan, recovery continues. From Toyota, “Toyota to Boost North American Production Earlier Than Expected“:

ERLANGER, Ky. (May 11, 2011) – Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc. (TEMA) will boost production earlier than expected following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Beginning in June, overall North American production will reach approximately 70 percent of normal levels, up from approximately 30 percent in May.

The improvement in parts availability from Japan is the result of countermeasure activities implemented by affected suppliers. Toyota will continue to evaluate production model-by-model on a monthly basis, with a goal to return to fully normalized production by late this year.

Models returning to 100 percent production in June are Avalon, Camry, Corolla, Highlander, Matrix, Sequoia, Sienna and Venza. (continue reading…)

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Spending Bill: No Czars, But Manufacturing Extension Partnership

Searching for the word “manufacturing” in Thursday’s House floor debate on H.R. 1473, the continuing resolution, that passed by a vote of 260-167, we find first the section that eliminates funding for White House “czars.”

Sec. 2262. None of the funds made available by this division may be used to pay the salaries and expenses for the following positions:

(1) Director, White House Office of Health Reform.

(2) Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change.

(3) Senior Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury assigned to the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry and Senior Counselor for Manufacturing Policy.

(4) White House Director of Urban Affairs.

The Detroit Free Press observes, “In the case of the car czar — actually the senior advisor to the secretary of the Treasury assigned to the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry and senior counselor for manufacturing policy — it hardly matters: Ron Bloom, who held the job, moved to the National Economic Council earlier this year, so it’s vacant.”

On another topic, Rep. Chakah Fattah (D-PA) complimented Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), who chairs the Commerce, Science, Justice activities in the continuing resolution. From Congressinal Record, Page H2742:

Notwithstanding the very challenging fiscal circumstances, Chairman Wolf has worked towards a set of priorities that will help move our country forward, and I thank him for working with me on a bipartisan basis.

I want to point out our highest priority within that section of the Commerce Department, which is that of the Manufacturing and Extension Partnerships, which will see an increase above the 2010 enacted and also the Senate amendment, or H.R. 1. I am very pleased about that.

The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) operates out of the National Institute for Standards and Technology, working with state partnerships to provide business planning services and technical advice to small businesses. (continue reading…)

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R&D Tax Credit: Investment, Jobs, Innovation by Manufacturers

The Department of Treasury on Friday released a new report, “Investing in U.S. Competitiveness: The Benefits of Enhancing the Research and Experimentation (R&E) Tax Credit,” with the full .pdf available here.

The report, developed to support the Obama Administration’s promotion of a permanent and stronger R&D tax credit, reaffirms the credit’s value to the U.S. economy, especially the manufacturing sector. In 2008, manufacturers claimed $5.78 billion worth of tax credits, or 69.3 percent of the total. The top three manufacturing sectors claiming the credit were:

  • Computer and electronic product manufacturing: 31.5 percent of the total claimed.
  • Chemical manufacturing: 25.9%
  • Transportation equipment manufacturing: 20.5%

The Administration proposes:

  • Making the R&E Credit Permanent. The President proposed in his FY 2012 Budget to permanently extend the R&E credit so that businesses can make investments in research projects, confident that they can benefit from the credit in the future. The President has placed a high priority on making the credit permanent, proposing this in his previous two budgets as well.
  • Increasing the Alternative Simplified Credit Rate by More than 20 Percent. While the President has previously proposed making the R&E credit permanent, the Administration now also proposes to increase the rate of the alternative simplified credit from 14 percent to 17 percent. This will provide a larger incentive to increase research and simplify the credit by encouraging firms to switch to the alternative simplified tax credit base. The Administration’s proposal maintains the current regular research credit to prevent disruption to firms that choose to continue claiming the regular research credit.

Secretary Geithner gave brief remarks Friday that mentioned the tax credit when he visited NanoMech, a nanotech-products manufacturer in Northwestern Arkansas.

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As Secretary Geithner Highlights Nanotechnology…

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is visiting an Arkansas manufacturer that specializes in nanotechnology today, using the stop at NanoMech to highlight the benefits of the R&D tax credit.

The company website (hey, a .biz domain name!) reports fascinating news about its products, including nano-engineered body armor and nano-lubricant technology. So we should expect some commentary from Secretary Geithner about the Administration’s views on nanotechnology.

We always turn to Instapundit to catch up on the latest developments in the technology and policy, and in doing so this morning, spot this post:

WELL, IT’S CAUSING A LOT OF OTHER PROBLEMS: Is policy uncertainty the cause of anemic growth in nanotechnology innovation?

Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds links to a blog post from the Foresight Institute, which builds on a column at Nanotechnology Now from Skip Rung, president and executive director of ONAMI, the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute.

In “Getting our Groove Back in Manufacturing Innovation: Nanomaterials, Green Nanotechnology and Policy Uncertainty,” Rung writes:

Post-November 2010, Washington DC swears it recognizes how vitally important entrepreneurs and innovation are, and that regulations will be reviewed for costs vs. benefits (if you believe for even a femtosecond that anything useful will come of that, call me about investing in my new flubber company). And of course, the crowd-pleasing soundbite “staple a green card to science and engineering advanced degrees” continues to be heard from politicians of both major flavors. Anyone currently attempting to keep a key PhD employee here (rather than be sent back to China to compete with them) is thoroughly sick and tired of hearing that empty promise.

If all that and the spectacle of politicians doing everything, anything, except address the impending public insolvencies hasn’t made you suicidal, then I guess you’re like the optimist in me that says ‘policy uncertainty’ in the face of what often seems like firm determination on the part of the U.S. government to undermine its own economy.

Yeah.

Here are the other Instapundit links on nanotech posted this year. (continue reading…)

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Make R&D Tax Credit Permanent, Even in Revamped Tax Code

Bloomberg, “Treasury Department Supports Permanent Research Tax Break Even in Overhaul,” reporting on Treasury’s support for a more robust, permanent R&D Tax Credit as part of a revamped tax code.

Michael Mundaca, assistant Treasury secretary for tax policy, said that the economic benefits and high-wage jobs generated by the research credit make it worth preserving, even in a tax system with fewer targeted tax incentives.

“In a reformed system, you’d still want some incentives to be provided for research activity, and we think this is a good incentive to provide,” Mark Mazur, the department’s chief tax economist, said at a briefing with reporters in Washington yesterday.

The briefing accompanied the advance release of a new report, as reported by Reuters, “Obama tax credit will support 1 mln workers-report.”

Treasury Secretary Geithner will highlight the jobs connection when he visits a high-tech manufacturer in Northwest Arkansas today. From ArkansasBusiness.com, “NanoMech Ready for Appointment with Geithner“:

NanoMech Inc. chairman and CEO Jim Phillips grasps firmly the significance of U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s Friday visit to northwest Arkansas.

“He could’ve gone to the Silicon Valley, he could’ve gone to the Research Triangle,” Phillips said Thursday morning, “but he’s coming here.”

Geithner’s visit is multi-pronged. He will meet with a group of regional business leaders at the Arkansas World Trade Center and also is expected to address the release of a report detailing the economic benefits of President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2012 Budget proposal to enhance the Research & Experimentation tax credit.

NanoMech anticipates Secretary Geithner’s visit in a news release, “U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner Makes Historic Visit to NanoMech Plant in Springdale.”

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