A new think tank has opened in the nation's capital focusing on issues involving innovation, productivity and the digital economy. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) was launched last week by its newly appointed president Robert Atkinson, who was vice president of the Progressive Policy Institute from 1998 until last month and director of its Technology and New Economy Project.
ITIF was created in partnership with the Information Technology Industry Council (ITC) and bills itself as a "non-partisan public policy think tank committed to articulating and advancing a pro-productivity, pro-innovation and pro-technology public policy agenda internationally, in Washington and [in] the states."
To underscore its non-partisan nature, ITIF has chosen as its co-chairs former House members from opposite sides of the aisle: Republican Jennifer Dunn and Democrat Calvin Dooley. The announcement of its founding features endorsements from two Democrats, Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, and two Republicans, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan.
Atkinson tells Manufacturing & Technology News that he hopes the new organization can capitalize on "broad, bipartisan support" to perform a pair of functions he sees as unfilled in Washington innovation-policy circles:
- Developing specific, actionable policy proposals. "A lot of what I see is either pretty 'micro' or pretty vague," he says. "I think we need to be able to say: 'Here are four things you could use to draft up legislation if you're so inclined.' "
- Pushing the envelope on some debates. "Consensus comes too quickly sometimes, and it can be too narrowly focused," Atkinson observes, naming the competitiveness debate as an example. "While training more scientists and engineers and funding more basic research are both very important, I don't think that's the answer."
He contrasts the latter approach -- which he calls the "build-it-and-they-will-come solution" -- with strategies he hopes ITIF will develop to attract companies to invest in "high-value-added, innovation based activities" in the United States.
Atkinson has placed an assessment of the R&D tax credit near the top of ITIF's list of projects. Its object will be to examine policies of other countries -- EU nations and Canada among them -- to determine what the U.S. might do to make its credits more effective. That work, says Atkinson, may prove the first step toward a "further analysis of corporate tax credits generally and what they do -- or fail to do -- to promote U.S. competitiveness and innovation."
More information on ITIF is available online at www.innovationpolicy.org; more information on ITI can be found at www.itic.org.
-- KEN JACOBSON