IHS Chemical Week


Stimulating Research with Stimulus Dollars

8:44 AM MDT | April 20, 2009 | By JOE ACKER

When President Obama signed his $787 billion economic recovery package into law, he called it “the biggest increase in basic research funding” in America’s history.  He also expressed hope that the infusion of cash would “ignite our imagination” and “spur new discoveries.”

In the 40 years that I’ve been part of the chemical industry, I can tell you that there’s never been a shortage of new ideas in our field.  The economic turmoil may have forced us to reprioritize, but American ingenuity is still alive and kicking. That is why I’m so pleased this bill will set aside $21.5 billion for federal research and development (R&D).  

The R&D provisions are among the most important aspects of the bill for our industry. These funds will open doors to new technologies and manufacturing opportunities, and help Americans compete globally. Specifically, $18 billion will go to R&D activities and $3.5 billion for facilities and capital equipment. Additional money will be set aside for science and technology programs and academia. More than $16 billion will be split among the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy’s Office of Science, National Institute of Standards and Technology and NASA. The money, which will not be allocated evenly, will go towards new and existing grants, project support and equipment for universities and national labs.

The NSF plans to spend $2 billion on research grants and $300 million on competitively awarded instrumentation grants. Similarly, NIST will direct $220 million to laboratory research, grants and fellowships, among other things. An additional $360 million will be used to build research facilities.

As an added bonus, this investment in basic research efforts and capabilities will not only spur innovation, but also create jobs for chemists, research personnel and others.  Local scientific researchers like the NSF, NIH and NIST, are all expecting to hire new staff to take on this additional work.  I would highly encourage job seekers to look into these organizations for employment opportunities. With resources in place, American talent and innovation will again take us to new heights.

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