Report Outlines Obama-Romney Differences On Government Support for High Technology

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By Paul Barbagallo  


Though the 2012 presidential election has not yet yielded “serious” conversation about technology or innovation policy, President Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney still disagree on most issues, according to a new report by a nonpartisan research group.

The report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, released Sept. 12, found that the candidates differ most in “general philosophy”: Obama believes in a more “activist role” for government in promoting innovation, while Romney believes the government should focus more on creating incentives for emerging companies and industries to grow.

In his first four years, Obama has released a Strategy for American Innovation, a National Broadband Plan, and a National Strategic Plan for Advanced Manufacturing. In addition, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act allocated billions of dollars to spur investments in broadband, the smart grid, and health IT, at the administration's urging, the report noted. Further, the president has called for increased investments in R&D and education, while concentrating less on regulatory and tax policy changes to encourage innovation.

Romney Addresses Only Energy Innovation.

Romney, meanwhile, has proposed tax breaks, reduced regulations, and budget cuts. While his plan acknowledges that public investment in basic research and advanced technology has helped spur advances by the private sector, it addresses “only energy innovation and not the broader role of federal R&D investment in other areas,” the report said. Romney's R&D policy would most likely be focused on investments in basic research and less on closer-to-market applied or translational research, it added.

“Rather than adopt an 'all-of-the-above’ approach to innovation policy that includes corporate tax and regulatory reform as well as increased federal investment in research and development, digital infrastructure, and skills, the candidates stress policies from 'each column,’ with Governor Romney focusing more on the former and President Obama more on the latter,” said Stephen Ezell, an ITIF senior analyst and the report's chief author. “This is unfortunate.”

The report, which the ITIF based on campaign websites, party platforms, administration documents, and media reports, also highlights Obama's and Romney's differences on “net neutrality” regulations and spectrum reform policy, which were first revealed in the Democratic and Republican party platforms.

For the report, visit

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