WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) gathered a panel of New Hampshire experts in manufacturing, telecommunications and research to discuss a new piece of legislation she is co-sponsoring that aims to keep America competitive with China in the field of advanced manufacturing.
Dubbed the Endless Frontier Act, the bill seeks create a directorate of technology and innovation in the National Science Foundation, boost investment in research and development domestically, secure supply chains for American manufacturers and help inspire students to become innovators.
Hassan told the roundtable that America’s workforce must continue to evolve along with the world economy, although she singled out the People’s Republic of China as a key competitor in advanced manufacturing fields, particularly in terms of semiconductors.
As Co-Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Nashua-based Parallel Wireless; Steve Papa told the panel that he has been competing with Chinese telecommunications company Huawei across the world as the Chinese government and Chinese companies such as Huawei have engaged in aggressive and sometimes illicit practices to hinder American companies.
Papa said that updating U.S. trade policies is important, but won’t be enough for American companies to compete with China in certain markets where China uses infrastructure grants to ensure built-in advantages for Chinese companies. Ultimately, he believes more focus on innovation is the key.
“The challenge of China’s economic nationalism is very severe,” he said.
Tim Dining, Vice President and General Manager of Manchester-based Jewell Instruments, getting tough on China can potentially harm American companies as well, citing the significant amount of business his company does with China and the harm caused after the Chinese government placed tariffs on his company’s items in response to tariffs on Chinese goods by the Trump Administration.
He also felt that focusing on domestic supply chains was not helpful given the global nature of the modern economy.
Instead, his primary concern was the creation of a lasting and bipartisan national policy when it comes to manufacturing that rewards companies that look toward re-investment in new technologies.
“The supply chain is and will remain global,” he said. “To strengthen the U.S. supply chain, we need to invest and keep improving advanced manufacturing and tie it with policy.”
University of New Hampshire Vice Provost for Innovation & New Ventures Marc Sedam said he was excited that the bill included direct funding for universities seeking to help identify and commercialize emerging technologies.
Sedam stated that China invests approximately $300 to $700 million per year when it comes to direct funding for these efforts, the U.S. has not ever directly provided funding for this in the past. Instead, clusters of universities in parts of the country such as Boston, Silicon Valley and the Research Triangle in North Carolina inadvertently created “eco-systems” where privately-owned companies emerged to fill this role.
Ultimately, he said those companies have contributed $1.4 trillion in economic output, adding $580 million to the gross domestic product and adding 5.4 million jobs in those high-tech clusters. He also noted that startup companies that grew in those clusters were ten times more likely to succeed and significantly more likely to stay within the county where they were founded.
The bill was delayed last week due to 13 votes on some of the 611 proposed amendments to the bill. Hassan said she expects the bill to move forward when Congress returns to session next week.