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What from another country's national innovation policy should the US adopt?

What from another country's national innovation policy should the US adopt?

Taiwan's Tech Research Institute setup and Canada and the U.K.'s immigration policies could serve as models for the U.S., members of Protocol's Braintrust say.

Good afternoon! In today's edition, we had a group of experts look to innovation strategies from across the globe and highlight the parts they thought might work well in the U.S. Questions or comments? Send us a note at

Robert Atkinson

President at ITIF

This is like asking what from another country we should have for dinner: There's so much to choose from. This is because other countries have embraced an innovation-economics framework to craft and refine a wide array of innovative innovation policy ideas and proposals. In contrast, the U.S. approach remains haphazard and largely constrained by a neoclassical economics framework that ignores this.

So if I have to choose one, I will choose Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute, which works closely with entrepreneurs and industry to help them develop and commercialize advanced technology. ITRI played a key role decades ago in helping Taiwan become the global leader in semiconductors. In the U.S., only "mission-specific" labs focused on issues like defense, health, environment, and energy are seen as legitimate. But what many nations do, including Taiwan, is to envision competitiveness in advanced industries as a core national mission. As such, it's time for the U.S. to do that and for Congress to establish at least one, if not several, national advanced industry R&D labs that would work closely with industry to advance both process and product technology.

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Sarah Oh Lam

Senior fellow at the Technology Policy Institute

The U.S. should be more like Canada and expand allowances for high-skilled immigrants to obtain H1-B work visas. Canada has increased its caps to over 100,000 visas per year in its Express Entry program while the U.S. still has an annual cap of 65,000 visas plus an additional 20,000 more for J-1 graduate degree holders. In the last year, the U.S. received over 480,000 applications for H1-B visas and uses a lottery to select only a quarter of those for review.

The uncertainty of the H1-B process is an unnecessary cost for U.S. firms that need more labor for data and research tasks. Grad students who cannot find an H1-B sponsor to extend their stay after F-1 and 3-year OPT visas are recruited to move to Canada where the immigration policy is more amenable to tech workers.

Congress sets the statutory cap on visas and should help firms retain talent from university programs. The H1-B visa program could be doubled in number to keep up with demand from applicants and to keep up with our northern neighbors. The number of immigrants in the H1-B program is 20x smaller than the estimated 2 million people entering the southern border per year. The verification process for each of these high-skilled workers costs between $5,000 and $31,800 per application and is paid by sponsoring American firms. Comprehensive immigration reform seems to be perennially stalled, but this narrow category of workers can be addressed with priority and business justification.

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Jason Oxman

President and CEO at the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI)

As U.S. policymakers examine the global innovation policy landscape, they should look across the Atlantic to two approaches that protect privacy and bolster cybersecurity. The first is establishing a single set of rules for privacy. Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) provides consumers with clear protections regardless of jurisdiction and businesses with the certainty of only having one over-arching data framework to comply with. The United States is missing out by not doing the same. Importantly, policymakers in the EU and U.S. must ensure that any existing or future uniform privacy regime has streamlined and unified enforcement across jurisdictions.

The second is developing a set of tools to help identify and manage cybersecurity risks related to 5G and 6G. As network technology continues to evolve, and 5G is deployed more robustly, the U.S. should consider a similar approach to the EU’s 5G Security Toolbox. The EU 5G Security Toolbox lays out strategic and technical measures alongside supporting actions that Member States can leverage to address specific risks. The EU 5G Security Toolbox was developed by public and private sector experts following consultation across Members States. We recommend the U.S. also embrace public-private collaboration were it to pursue a similar approach. Like privacy, this approach would need to be embraced and implemented consistently across the entire U.S. to be truly effective and require continued initiative from the U.S. Congress and Executive Branch.

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John Smee

SVP, engineering at Qualcomm

Digital platforms have revolutionized the way markets work, providing significant benefits to the economy and consumers. However, there are growing concerns that the reliance that other businesses have on the world’s largest digital platforms may allow them to engage in practices that can be detrimental to innovation and competition. As a result, governments across the globe have been called upon to ensure that digital ecosystems are not harmed, and that innovative companies are able to thrive.

The European Union has been leading on that front. This year, it adopted the Digital Markets Act (DMA)—a targeted set of regulations that address some of the digital platform practices that have been considered most problematic. Although the practical effects of the DMA have yet to be realized, historical context in digital platform fields such as fintech suggest that imposing limited and targeted duties with respect to data sharing can spur innovation and enable the growth of the broader ecosystem.

The EU and the US share many concerns regarding digital markets. Yet, while the EU adopted the DMA in record time, the debate surrounding digital platforms in the United States continues to drag on, without any legislative action having been taken. It might be helpful for the United States to take a closer look at the policy solutions adopted in the European Union and examine what, if anything, can be learned from the EU’s newest digital market regulations.

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Rebecca Finlay

CEO at the Partnership on AI

One of the most intriguing recent innovation policy developments is the emergence worldwide of national AI strategies. Over 40 countries and regions have announced AI strategies that emphasize different elements of the innovation pipeline from scientific leadership to data privacy. This unique technology-specific policy approach reflects the potential transformative capacity of AI across many sectors of the economy.

Many strategies note the important intersection between a country’s national innovation policy and its ability to weigh and mitigate risks that emerge from novel technological developments. For example, the EU’s AI Act seeks to advance AI that is a force for good in society, protects privacy, and promotes responsible innovation. The Act will not replace, but overlap with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which regulates data collection, storage and privacy. Strengths include requirements for high-risk AI systems, such as technical documentation and transparency which builds on emerging consensus in industry of the need to document models and data across the lifecycle of an AI system.

In the U.S., AI innovation-related policies are emerging with federal investments in science and technology, a new National AI Advisory Committee, and state level privacy regulations. As other national AI strategies have done, it will be important for the U.S. to communicate a clear innovation framework for AI, guided by stated principles, that drives innovation, alongside strong and clear governance. For U.S. companies to prepare, it is important to get started on integrating documentation best practices into the management of their AI systems.

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Gary Shapiro

President and CEO at the Consumer Technology Association

The United States should reform our immigration policy to attract the world’s best and brightest talent, returning to what President Reagan called the “shining city on the hill.” Immigration and diversity are America’s secret sauce. Immigrants play a critical role in driving American innovation. In fact, 45% of Fortune 500 corporations, including Apple and Amazon, were founded by immigrants and the children of immigrants.

Unfortunately, our outdated immigration system — and an approach that is more inward-looking than welcoming and strategic — means the U.S. is falling behind in the global race for talent. We’re at a defining moment, with the tech sector facing a major shortage of skilled workers.

We need to look at other sources. Canada offers a great example: a startup visa program designed for immigrant entrepreneurs to build and grow businesses. Beyond Canada’s startup visa, the U.S. could borrow some other good ideas from around the globe: a fast-track visa for STEM professions (U.K.) — or at least an expansion of H1-B visas — and revival of the International Entrepreneur Rule to create a clear pathway for entrepreneurs (EU).

The administration should also enable American businesses to employ some of the thousands of tech workers who have fled Ukraine. Countries with smaller populations like Poland have taken in over two million Ukrainian immigrants this year; surely we can handle a few hundred thousand. Given our labor shortage and the need for skilled tech workers, we must adopt immigration rules that expedite and expand visas for workers with in-demand skills.

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Betsy Cooper

Director at the Aspen Institute's Tech Policy Hub

Borrowing from the United Kingdom's innovation strategy, the United States should make "innovation talent" a primary pillar of its innovation policy.

The United States has long been the place where the best and brightest come to innovate new ideas, but our restrictive anti-immigrant policies and lack of concrete strategy to bring innovation here are hindering us. The United States should try to reclaim its position as the most exciting place for innovators to develop their ideas — before it is too late.

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See who's who in the Protocol Braintrust and browse every previous edition by category here (Updated Sept. 27, 2022).

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