The Senate voted 68 to 32 to pass one of the most expansive bills on U.S. economic competitiveness in decades. The United States Innovation and Competition Act (“USICA”) is the culmination of three months of bipartisan negotiations after Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) invited six Senate committees to propose bills to bolster U.S. leadership in research and development (“R&D”), technological advancement, and economic growth. Before the vote, Leader Schumer remarked that “the ambitions of this legislation are large, but the premise is simple. If we want American workers and American companies to keep leading the world, the federal government must invest in science, basic research, and innovation just as we did decades after the Second World War.” He applauded the bill for “paving the way for the largest investment in science and technology in generations.”
The convincing bipartisan vote to authorize over $200 billion in federal funding reflects broad support for investing in U.S. innovation and competition. The heart of the bill is the Endless Frontier Act authorizing $81 billion to the National Science Foundation (“NSF”) and $17 billion to the Department of Energy (“DOE”) to support R&D across ten key technologies, including artificial intelligence, advanced communications technology, biotechnology, and semiconductors. The bill also includes institutional support, including establishing a new technology and innovation arm at the NSF and hundreds of provisions recognizing the Federal Government’s role in innovation and competition, including support for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (“STEM”) education; protecting research security and intellectual property rights; and competing globally, including against China. Against the backdrop of a global chips shortage, the bill appropriates $52 billion in emergency funding to support semiconductor manufacturing and R&D and $1.5 billion to support open and interoperable interface radio access networks (“open-RAN”) enabling more secure deployment of 5G.
The bill’s provisions are organized across six divisions:
Division A funds two programs that were enacted as part of the National Defense Authorization Act last year. First, the division appropriates $52 billion to fund programs authorized by the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors for America Act (“CHIPS Act”), including financial assistance for companies to invest in facilities and equipment for semiconductor manufacturing and R&D, a Department of Defense public-private partnership to ensure a robust semiconductor supply chain, and a Department of Commerce (“DOC”) study on the capabilities of the U.S. industrial base to support semiconductor needs. Second, the division appropriates $1.5 billion to a Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund, authorized by the Utilizing Strategic Allied Telecommunications Act (“USA Telecommunications Act”), to award grants for companies to research, develop, and deploy 5G and next-generation technology that uses open-RAN.
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