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  January 10th, 2017 | Written by

Trump: Focus More on Innovation Infrastructure

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  • ITIF wants Trump infrastructure plan to focus more on innovation than concrete and steel.
  • ITIF urges policymakers to invest in R&D and smart infrastructure.
  • Traditional infrastructure spending would not revitalize U.S. manufacturing.

A traditional infrastructure plan that invests in roads and bridges could increase employment in the short term, but the incoming Trump administration and new Congress also should focus on innovation infrastructure to spur long-term economic growth, according to a new report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF).

ITIF, a leading U.S. science and tech policy think tank, urges policymakers to invest in the building blocks of innovation—such as R&D and tech-enabled smart infrastructure—because they can serve as the foundation of a more robust economy in the long run.

“Just as physical infrastructure undergirded the U.S. economy in the industrial era, scientific and technological innovation is an essential building block for sustained growth now and as we look to the future,” said ITIF President Robert D. Atkinson. “The U.S. economy is saddled with stagnant productivity and chronic underinvestment, which are slowing growth and preventing us from raising people’s living standards. Filling potholes and repairing sewers would certainly create jobs in the short term, but we also need investment that will address these structural issues for the long run. Increased productivity is the only path to better standards of living, and traditional infrastructure stimulus won’t be enough to get us there.”

The new report, authored by Peter Singer, a policy advisor at the MIT Washington Office, argues that traditional infrastructure spending can stimulate short-term job growth, but it won’t address the lack of investment that is holding back sustainable, long-term growth. Nor would that kind of spending tend to revitalize U.S. manufacturing, according to the report.

To address the structural issues of lagging productivity and underinvestment, Singer urges policymakers to invest in research funding; advanced-technology development; research infrastructure; smart infrastructure; and cooperative advanced-manufacturing research institutes. He explains that this will support the kind of innovation needed to get the economy back in high gear for the future.

“President-elect Trump’s campaign focused on getting the United States out of its low-growth rut,” said Atkinson. “We hope his infrastructure plan will look beyond easy, short-term answers and also instead invest in what the country needs to have sustainable growth that improves living standards across the board.”