SSTI: New Survey Finds Enthusiastic, Bipartisan Support for Innovation Initiative Designed to Bolster U.S. Economy

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iSTEP initiative would increase scientific research investments, create regional partnerships to grow technology companies, and invest more in STEM education

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"iSTEP will help create more good, high-paying jobs and ultimately help improve all Americans’ quality of life.”-Dan Berglund, President & CEO SSTI

Overwhelming majorities of voters across the nation and in key swing states support a comprehensive initiative designed to parlay the United States’ strong research base into greater economic prosperity and a higher quality of life for all. These findings come from a new survey conducted for the Innovation Advocacy Council, an initiative of SSTI, by the bipartisan team of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and TargetPoint Consulting.

After learning about the new Innovative Science & Technology for Economic Prosperity (iSTEP) initiative, 89 percent of voters say they would support the effort, which would convert scientific and medical research into new businesses and jobs, bringing the benefits of the innovation economy to the American people. Support is higher among likely voters who live in presidential election battleground states (92 percent). The iSTEP initiative garners strong support across party lines, reaching 91 percent among Democrats and 86 percent among Republicans.

“While the United States leads the world in research and innovation, it often fails to take full advantage of those strengths by turning them into new jobs, new companies, and new medical treatments and cures,” said Dan Berglund, president and CEO of SSTI, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to improving initiatives that support prosperity through science, technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship. “Not only will the iSTEP initiative help us compete in the world economy, it will help address some of our most serious problems at home: by creating more good, high-paying jobs and expanding access to the kinds of products, remedies, and cures that improve all Americans’ quality of life.”

The iSTEP initiative is a comprehensive approach to converting our nation’s strength in research into greater economic prosperity through a series of policy proposals that include:

  • Efforts to convert government-funded research into new companies and jobs;
  • Developing federal government partnerships with cities, states, regions, and non-profit organizations to help fund locally-designed strategies that encourage the creation and growth of technology companies;
  • Increased access to financing for innovative start-ups and existing companies that are creating new products and jobs;
  • Making smarter investments in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education; and
  • Increased investments in scientific research.

The initiative aims to correct a fundamental, but fixable, problem in the U.S. economy: the failure to fully convert cutting-edge research into jobs and economic and social benefits for all Americans. The U.S. is home to the world’s most respected universities and can claim more patents and Nobel prizes than any other country. Yet too often, U.S.-led research and innovation leads to new jobs overseas or simply gathers dust on university library shelves.

Efforts like those outlined in the iSTEP initiative work on the local and state level:

  • Georgia: For 25 years, the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) has worked to strengthen the research enterprise in Georgia. GRA works to expand research capacity in Georgia's universities to recruit world-class talent, seed new companies and transform lives. GRA has leveraged $600 million of state funding into $2.6 billion of direct federal and private investment in Georgia and has helped launch over 150 university startups and aided in the creation of more than 6,000 high-skill, high-value jobs.
  • Missouri: BioSTL, a St. Louis-based non-profit, has organized regional stakeholders around a comprehensive set of strategies that leverage its region's bioscience strengths. BioSTL has helped create 55 new startups that have raised more than $300 million and employ more than 200 people at an average wage that is more than 60 percent higher than the state average. BioSTL recruits capital, talent, and international companies that fit St. Louis’ strengths, trains entrepreneurs (with a special focus on underrepresented minorities), provides shared lab space, and launched one urban and one suburban science park that are now home to more than 220 companies and 3,750 workers.
  • Ohio: Since 2004, Cleveland-based Venture Development Organization JumpStart Inc., and its partner organizations across Northeast Ohio have helped nearly 100 early-stage entrepreneurs obtain the space, investment, advice, support and connections they need to raise nearly $1.7 billion in additional risk capital, generate more than $1 billion in revenue and create or retain more than 10,000 total jobs. Overall, companies assisted by this network have generated $1.6 billion in cumulative economic impact for the state of Ohio.

As many voters struggle to find good-paying jobs and make ends meet in a still-fragile economy, they understand the critical role that iSTEP can play in making better use of U.S.-led research and innovation to strengthen the economy; create good, high-paying, and in-demand jobs; and enable companies to create products and cures that improve quality of life. In addition, voters are willing to fund the proposal, according to the survey. Solid majorities of voters say they would be willing to reform the tax code and use a gas or cigarette tax to fund iSTEP.

The issue has considerable potential to impact the 2016 elections. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (65 percent) said they would be more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who supports iSTEP. Two-thirds of voters in presidential battleground states (66 percent) and more than half of respondents who identify as swing voters (53 percent) agreed.

“In this historically polarized political climate, very few public policy ideas reach this level of consensus,” said David Walker, vice president at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. “But voters across the country and across party lines are in strong agreement when it comes to iSTEP: by near unanimous margins, they want our country to make better use of the research our scientists conduct and the innovations our entrepreneurs create—and candidates and officeholders would be wise to take this information into account in 2016.”

The online survey, conducted by the bipartisan team of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and TargetPoint Consulting between Sept. 22 and Sept. 30, 2015, was taken of 1,000 likely voters in the 2016 election with an oversample in the battleground states of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.

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SSTI is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to improving initiatives that support prosperity through science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. As the most comprehensive resource available for those involved in technology-based economic development, SSTI offers the services that are needed to help build tech-based economies. Learn more at ssti.org and follow @ssti_org.

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Melanie Kaye
SSTI
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