Creating conditions for technological innovation and competitiveness in the US

The rapid technological development is changing society as well as people’s everyday lives. Governments are both facing the need to take advantage of opportunities and at the same time manage the risks that follow this development. So how does the US Government regulate and enable innovation and the testing of new technologies in the country?

In the US, the main coordinating authority for technological innovation is the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), under the Executive Office of the President. The overall priority for the OSTP is to reduce regulatory burdens and foster technological innovation in the country. Moreover, the departments under the federal government are important for creating favorable conditions for innovation, among these we have the Department of Energy and the Department of Defence that connects different actors and enables testing and experiments.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), lies under the Department of Commerce and runs a number of laboratories and testbeds, as well as funds research projects in its mission to promote innovation and industrial competitiveness. Recently, President Trump also issued an executive order on reconstituting the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), that consists of experts from outside the federal government whose role is to advise the White House and conduct studies on its behalf.

On the legislative side, the committees belonging to the Senate and the House of Representatives also have an important function in keeping up with the developments in this field. The same goes for the General accountability office (GAO), that provides Congress with analyses of technological and scientific developments. However, in recent years it has been apparent that Congress lacks resources to adequately address the rapid technological development. Due to this, there has been discussions about reestablishing the Office of Technology Assessment Policy (the legislative branch equivalent OSTP).

With so many companies, government agencies, and nongovernmental organizations involved in the development, use, and control of new technologies, it is clearly hard to centralize the federal support for innovators. It is rather the state level, and even the city level, that strives to facilitate testing and experiments through sandboxes and so called “one-stop-shops”. Here are a few examples:

  • Arizona has created a regulatory sandbox for FinTech companies to test financial products without being subject to certain requirements.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation have created a pilot program to test autonomous drones in different locations throughout the United States, where 10 public-private partnerships have been chosen to test the systems.
  • Companies have tested autonomous vehicles extensively throughout California, and the state has evolved its requirements to test autonomous vehicles on its public roads over time. For example, California’s autonomous vehicle rules in 2014 required a driver behind the steering wheel during testing. In 2018 California allowed driverless cars without a human behind the wheel.
  • Chicago has set up a one-stop shop called the Small Business Center that removes the need for some small-business owners to visit multiple city departments or fill out duplicative forms to start a business.

In addition to the above-mentioned US examples, we would like to highlight an initiative from the Swedish Government; the establishment of the Committee for Technological Innovation and Ethics (Komet) on August 14 2018.  

Komet aims to create good conditions for innovation and competitiveness in Sweden, while developing and disseminating new technologies in a safe, secure and long-term societal perspective. The committee helps the Government to identify policy challenges, contribute to reducing uncertainty surrounding existing regulations, and accelerate policy development linked to fourth industrial revolution technologies. Furthermore, Komet uses regulatory sandboxes that create favorable conditions for controlled testing. The testing helps clarify needs for development and adaptation of regulations and involve the public sector, individual citizens and companies.

Just like its American counterpart, the Swedish Government thus strives to encourage and enable innovation through forums such as Komet. For the future, there are great opportunities the two countries to exchange knowledge and experiences in the field.

The chairman of Komet, Jon Simonsson, visited the Consulate General of Sweden in New York and the Office of Science and Innovation in Washington D.C. on October 14th – 16th 2019. Jon held a presentation for the Embassy personnel. He also met with the Deloitte Centre for Government Insights, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), as well as the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes (CSPO), Arizona State University.

Jon Simonsson, Chairman of Komet.
Meeting at the Centre for Government Insights, Deloitte, Washington D.C.

Follow the work of Komet here. The committee regularly posts international outlooks within the field of innovation.  

Also click here if you are interested in learning more about the U.S innovation policy over the years.

Agnes Wiberg, intern at the Office of Science and Innovation in Washington D.C