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INSIDE CI: Focus on R&D

February 1, 2007
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French mathematician and philosopher Henri Poincaré‚ said, "Science is built of facts the way a house is built of bricks; but an accumulation of facts is no more science than a pile of bricks is a house." Without study, analysis and direction, all the information in the world will amount to nothing, which is why research and development plays such a vital role in our industry and the nation as a whole. According to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), innovation and technological advances led to a 60% increase in manufacturing activity between 1994-2004.

In December 2006, the 109th Congress passed the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006, which President Bush signed into law. The Act includes an extension of the research and development tax credit, but only through 2007. According to NAM, almost 11,000 companies use the credit each year in industries ranging from aerospace and biotechnology to electronics and energy. The R&D tax credit is available for projects performed within the U.S., and manufacturers claimed almost $3.8 billion in R&D tax credits in 2003.

"Manufacturers are the primary innovators in the United States, performing the bulk of private sector R&D that is absolutely essential to the development of new products and increased productivity," said John Engler, president of NAM. "The United States' global leadership in innovation is clearly threatened by fierce competition from the permanent and more generous R&D tax incentives offered by other countries."

The U.S. spent 2.6% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on R&D in 2003, while countries such as Japan, Sweden, Finland and Israel each focused 3.1% or more of their GDP on R&D. In addition, foreign-based R&D spending grew faster than domestic R&D spending in 2003.1

The U.S. still leads the world in overall R&D spending, however, and Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Scientific and Technical Information's website offers summaries of more than 750,000 federal R&D projects. Records can be searched from several databases, including the Small Business Administration Technology Resources Network,  the Environmental Protection Agency Science Inventory, the DOE R&D Project Summaries Database,  and the National Science Foundation Awards Database. The site is located at www.osti.gov/fedrnd .

Having recognized the vital importance of sourcing products for use in R&D projects, CI is launching the R&D Lab Equipment and Instrumentation Directory in this issue. The quick-reference chart lists suppliers* of products ranging from balances and blenders to surface area analyzers and viscometers. Display advertisers in this issue are marked in blue within the chart, and contact information is listed for each supplier, so you can quickly and easily request additional information on whatever you need to help ensure the success of your R&D projects.

Budgeting for R&D can be very difficult when the future of the R&D tax credit is uncertain. It might be renewed for 2008, but then again it might not, and it's hard to balance million-dollar decisions on uncertainty. Manufacturers should contact their Congressional representatives and request that the tax credit be given permanent status. The U.S. has been the worldwide technology leader for generations, and we must take steps to ensure that we don't fall behind.

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