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Staying Competitive in the 21st Century

Commerce Secretary John Bryson Releases COMPETES Report at CAP Event

Commerce Secretary John Bryson released a major report at CAP last week that offers recommendations for future U.S. competitiveness.

For more on this event see its event page.

At a Center for American Progress event on January 6, Secretary of Commerce John Bryson unveiled “the COMPETES report,” an analysis of what our economy can do to flourish in an innovation-driven 21st century global economy. Secretary Bryson presented the key findings of the report, and a distinguished panel of experts discussed the findings in more detail. The panel discussion was followed by “science fair” breakout sessions hosted by COMPETES report advisory board members.

In her opening remarks at the event, CAP President Neera Tanden explained the importance of competitiveness to our economy:

“Competitiveness is about building an economy that’s fit for the 21st century in a world where we’re competing and trying to win with new competitors, each and every day. It’s also about building an economy that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.”

She said that President Barack Obama’s signing of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act last year “keeps America on a path of leadership in science and technology, and education to ensure that we are doing what’s right for our economy in a global world” not only in the near future “but for decades to come.”

The act allows significant investments in programs at the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Commerce—all focused on U.S. competitiveness.

“As part of the COMPETES Act,” Tanden said, “Congress asked Secretary of Commerce Bryson to conduct a detailed analysis of the structural challenges to our nation’s engine of innovation, job creation, and growth. Known as ‘the COMPETES report,’ the study is a first-of-its-kind look into the biggest challenges our economy is facing, as well as the opportunities we have today.”

In his keynote speech, Commerce Secretary Bryson talked about the report and explained how innovation is critical to our future:

“Our ability to innovate as a nation will determine what kind of economy, what kind of country, our children and grandchildren will inherit, and whether it’s a country that builds and holds the same promise for them as it did for our parents and grandparents.”

He said the government needs to do more to help the struggling economy and its citizens, and that “America’s challenge isn’t just to strengthen the recovery—it’s to lay a new foundation for sustainable, long-term economic growth.”

Bryson outlined three areas where more government investment could do just that: research, education, and infrastructure.

The government needs to invest in private-sector research, which breeds many ideas and much innovation, as well as jobs, and it needs to better protect the copyrights and patents of companies. It also needs to invest in the teaching of science, technology, engineering, and mathematical fields (the so-called STEM fields), in which other countries currently have many more students—many of them studying here. And it needs to invest in publicly provided resources such as broadband Internet in order to give the country a competitive and innovative edge.

He also discussed the importance of manufacturing jobs, saying that they are the biggest source of innovation in our economy, and that they allow us to sustain a strong middle class, which is essential as the country moves forward.

A panel discussion followed Secretary Bryson’s remarks. Moderated by CAP Executive Vice President Sarah Rosen Wartell, the panel included acting Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, and James Manyika, director of McKenzie and Company and McKenzie and Company Global Institute.

Manyika said that the United States still has its competitive edge, but it needs five things in order to rise above the rest of the world: the most productive, the most innovative, and the most globally competitive companies; a disproportionate share of the innovators and entrepreneurs; the most skilled and the most productive workers; the most competitive and the most innovative global sectors; and the most research and development.

Chopra said the government can be the first to buy into the new market opportunities of cloud computing, as well as supply data about education, the environment, and health care to entrepreneurs. Blank further discussed manufacturing, saying that “in order to innovate, you also have to produce.”

The COMPETES report (available here) sheds light on what the U.S government needs to do in order to ensure that the economy is viable and that its citizens are able to continue to innovate and succeed.

For more on this event see its event page.

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