INDIANA — By investing in research and development and enhancing workforce development, sponsors of a bipartisan U.S. Senate bill aim to support technological innovation, both from local businesses and those looking to relocate to states like Indiana.
The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act includes the bipartisan motion that promotes research and development through tax credits. The motion was authored by Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana, and Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire.
The Senate is holding its first votes this week, and the legislation could be on President Joe Biden’s desk for signature before the August Congressional recess.
The legislation will allow for American manufacturers to compete globally in the market of innovation, according to Young.
One example Young gave is how the U.S. is entirely reliant on other countries for microprocessors, or computer chips, which “can be found in basically everything with an on or off switch.”
He is hoping that these incentives will convince U.S. companies to make those chips in the country.
“In particular, we are focused on investing in emerging technology areas, those technologies that are going to drive the 21st century economy. Things like hypersonics, quantum computing, autonomous systems, battery storage, artificial intelligence: The sort of technology areas that require a high level of training and sophistication to master,” Young said.
Currently the U.S. offers up to 10% in a tax credit for qualifying companies. The bill looks to double the tax credit as well as to expand it to more startup companies and small businesses.
Additionally, it would ensure that companies can continue to fully deduct research and development expenses every year.
The president of Amatrol, a manufacturing company headquartered in Jeffersonville, is in support of the bill. The company provides educational programs for technical systems in various industries.
Amatrol was founded in 1981 and Paul Perkins, president and co-founder, said that they have alway had a strong investment in research and development. However, in the last 20 years, Perkins said they have had to triple to quadruple their investment.
Perkins pointed to not only the growth of their business for this increased investment but also because of a need to keep up with the rapid advancement of technology.
By offering these tax credits, Director of Purdue Polytechnic New Albany Joseph Dues Jr. said that it spurs innovation for all companies.
“The difficult part is that we don’t know who the truly innovative company is gonna be and who’s gonna come up with the truly revolutionary idea,” Dues said. “It seems to me that the investment in the tax credits kind of helps spread the wealth so that there’s an increased likelihood of finding that winner among the local companies.”
Corey Sharp, director of statewide partnerships, and Polytechnic Anderson, Lafayette, Vincennes, Indianapolis and interim in Richmond, also noted the importance of increased capital for start up companies.
When looking at technology involving medical devices, Sharp said that navigating regulations is a big part of getting a product manufactured. Having access to more funds will allow businesses to have the staff or support to understand the regulatory environment.
Having the funds to be able to manufacture a product from the prototype or to market a product are also barriers that some entrepreneurs face, according to Sharp.
The bill does not just aim to support business through research and development investments, but by aiding in the training of workers through workforce training and education funding in each technological field.
When formulating his idea for this bill, Young said that many businesses mentioned the need for more trained workers.
In the next five to 10 years, Perkins said there will need to be several million more workers to handle the increase in new technology and manufacturing jobs.
“By some estimates, the number of students that are coming out of high school today [and] going into technical careers is about half of what the industry demand is,” he said.
Purdue Polytechnic works to support this need by educating future employees for high tech companies in the region. But Dues and Sharp both noted that there was a decrease in enrollment during the pandemic, though Sharp noted that they are on the upswing.
Perkins noticed a similar trend at Amatrol with those utilizing training programs. Going forward, he is expecting to see more growth in the technological field.
Amatrol produces training programs for many different age groups, from high schoolers to those in college to those actively working in an industry. Perkins said that they received a grant from the Department of Defense to create training for high schoolers for the rapid changes in technology, which has been deemed Industry 4.0.
Young said that the bill would allow colleges and universities to receive more funding for research. In turn, increased funding will serve to attract more young adults to Indiana and entice them to remain in the state to work, he said.
Efforts to train workers in these technology fields will also be implemented through technology hubs, which the bill intends to create.
“These would be particular regions around the heartland of America that would be designated by the federal government to receive a significant portion of the dollars allocated in this legislation,” Young said.
Along with training workers, the money would be used at the hubs to help technologies mature into products to benefit consumers, according to Young. The hubs will have a designated field of expertise based on what state or region it is located in.
Young said that there has been a lot of interest in Indiana becoming one of these technology hubs, and he thinks there is a good chance it will happen. Indiana leaders will soon apply for its designated manufacturing field.
“Once you receive that designation it will be a signal to the private market that this is a good place to work in one of those fields or to invest or in one of those fields,” he said.
With this kind of formal designation from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Young anticipates significant growth in the private sector.
With the state’s rich agricultural history and expertise in life sciences, Young said he could see Indiana potentially being designated as an agricultural informatics tech hub.
Additionally, the senator thinks Indiana has the potential to be designated as an advanced manufacturing state or be involved in the energy technology area.
The state has already seen examples of being a magnet for agricultural technology businesses.
Sharp noted that a company focused on organic biostimulants to help fertilize fields called Hello Nature Bioscience, relocated its headquarters from Italy to Anderson. Sharp said this move was because of Indiana’s tax credits (different from credits mentioned in this bill) and ability to leverage research and development.
Young said that he thinks they will have the opportunity in the next few weeks to get the final version of the bill out of Congress and in front of President Joe Biden.