Innovation Files has moved! For ITIF's quick takes, quips, and commentary on the latest in tech policy, go to

Search Results

The IANA Transition Is Not Perfect, But Congress Should Approve It Anyway

In recent months, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has become the face of opposition to the U.S. government relinquishing its historic oversight of key technical functions of the Internet. This opposition will be on display today, as he holds a hearing to help Congress better understand the implications of such action. In some ways, Sen. Cruz’s opposition is justified—as ITIF has long argued, U.S. oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has been a crucial factor in its stability, and a transition away from U.S. oversight will create unique risks and challenges for Internet governance. But Sen. Cruz is still wrong to oppose the transition. Undoubtedly, the transition proposal is imperfect, but it has been vetted and approved by the global multistakeholder community. Therefore, any effort by the U.S. government to delay or derail the transition now would undermine the consensus developed by civil society and embolden other countries to intervene in the domain name system.

To understand today’s debate, a bit of historical perspective is necessary. In 1998, the Clinton administration announced plans to transition the management of the domain name system to the private

Read the rest

Our Long, National GMO Labeling Nightmare Is Over

Well, maybe not. But we can hope, at least, that the noise going forward will be somewhat reduced. On July 14, the U.S. House voted 306-117 to pass the “so-called” Roberts-Stabenow bill that cleared the Senate the week before by a 63-30 vote. It’s unlikely this will stop all the shouting, but against long odds, Democrats and Republicans forged a bipartisan compromise with bicameral support to quash a classic attempt at rent seeking by a special interest group, in this case strident activists advocating for organic food. The activists’ hope had been to tar and feather genetically improved foods with mandatory labels that would have signaled to consumers that any such foods are inherently suspect. But lawmakers sided instead with the overwhelming majority of scientists in the United States and around the world / who have examined the evidence and found no such thing. So this battle in the culture wars has been clearly lost by the insurgents.

The bill was designed to preempt an ill-considered Vermont law that entered into force on July 1, requiring labels on some foods (i.e., none of those important to local producers) containing

Read the rest

A Welcome Expansion of the Information Technology Agreement Has Arrived

On July 1, the global production, trade, and usage of information and communications technology (ICT) products received a long-awaited boost when the expanded Information Technology Agreement (ITA)—a trade agreement that eliminates tariffs on hundreds of ICT products—came into force. The World Trade Organization (WTO) considers the initial ITA, concluded in 1996, as one of the most successful trade agreements ever. The expanded ITA is the biggest tariff-cutting deal in WTO history. It’s hoped that the deal will have similar success in driving ICT-based trade, productivity, and innovation as its successor.

The expanded ITA will build on the significant impact that the initial ITA exerted on growing global ICT trade. From 1996 to 2008, total global two-way trade in ICT products covered by the agreement increased by more than 10 percent annually, from $1.2 trillion to $4.0 trillion. The expanded ITA promotes affordability and accessibility to a new generation of ICT products by eliminating tariffs to trade on an updated list of 201 ICT products. The initial ITA cut tariffs on eight categories of ICT products, such as semiconductors, computers, and telecommunication products. The latest list includes scores of products

Read the rest

Innovation Fact of the Week: Global Biotech Crop Production Has Generated Over $130B in Economic Benefits for Farmers

(Ed. Note: The “Innovation Fact of the Week” appears as a regular feature in each edition of ITIF’s weekly email newsletter. Sign up today.)

Between 1996 and 2013, farmers around the world who have adopted biotech crops have increased their incomes by a total of $133.4 billion. Two main factors explain how biotech crops increase farmers’ income. First, pest-resistant plants reduce the need for pesticides, which produces cost savings. Second, disease-resistant crops provide greater yields, thereby giving farmers more product to sell.

Farmers clearly understand the economic benefit of adopting biotech crops. In 2013, the three most commonly grown biotech crops—corn, cotton, and soybeans—covered more than 200 million hectares of land globally, or slightly more than half of the arable land used to grow all varieties of these crops.

Farmers in the developing world have earned more than half of the global economic benefit that biotech crops have generated since the mid-1990s (close to $70 billion), even though developed countries were the first adopters. Given the positive economic benefits, governments should do more to spur research and development of new biotech crop varieties.

For more on

Read the rest

Innovation Fact of the Week: U.S. IT Companies Contribute Outsized Share of U.S. and Global R&D Investment

(Ed. Note: The “Innovation Fact of the Week” appears as a regular feature in each edition of ITIF’s weekly email newsletter. Sign up today.)

Companies invest in research and development activities to remain at the forefront of technology, stay ahead of their competitors, and create new waves of innovations—and by these measures, the U.S. information technology sector is intensely focused on maintaining its global leadership position. A report from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre underscores the point. It found that in 2014, the world’s 2,500 largest companies together invested $810 billion in R&D. One-third of those companies were based in the U.S., yet they accounted for approximately 40 percent of the global R&D figure. Why the outsized share? A big reason was that 286 of those U.S. companies were in the R&D-intensive information technology sector.

Not surprisingly, those 286 large IT companies also accounted for an outsized share of total business R&D in the United States—46 percent. This was a far higher percentage than the equivalent share of contributions that the largest IT companies made in other countries and regions. For example, the Chinese IT companies

Read the rest

University Startups Conference Showcases Latest ITIF Tech Transfer and Commercialization Policy Proposals

ITIF Vice President for Global Innovation Policy Stephen Ezell spoke at the National Council of Entrepreneurial Tech Transfer’s University Startups and Global 1,000 Conference in Washington, DC, on April 5, 2016. The following excerpts his remarks.

With innovation being the lifeblood of the American economy, I’d like to offer several policy recommendations that could bolster America’s broader innovation, tech transfer, and commercialization ecosystem.

First, as a society, we’re simply not investing enough in scientific research. We’re not investing as much in research and development (R&D) compared to our own history. In fact, if our own federal government invested as much in scientific research as a share of gross domestic product (GDP) that we did in 1983, we’d invest at least $60 billion more a year in R&D than we do now. So closer to $200 billion a year than $138 billion a year. Moreover, we’re not investing as much as a share of R&D compared to competitor nations. Preliminary data for the forthcoming 2016 OECD Science, Technology, and Industry Scoreboard shows the United States falling to 10th of the 39 OECD countries in national R&D intensity (national R&D investment in

Read the rest

Innovation Fact of the Week: U.S. Businesses Spend Up to 4% of GDP on ICTs

(Ed. Note: The “Innovation Fact of the Week” appears as a regular feature in each edition of ITIF’s weekly email newsletter. Sign up today.)

When organizations invest in better communication tools, processing equipment, and advanced software, it has a direct impact on their productivity, so it is a good sign for the United States that its businesses are investing more in these information and communications technologies (ICT) than businesses in any other country.

National Science Board data show that from 2012 to 2014, U.S. businesses spent an average of $650 billion on ICT goods, or 4 percent of U.S. GDP in that period. Among developed nations, Japanese businesses came in second, spending the equivalent of 3.5 percent of Japan’s GDP on ICT goods. Among developing nations, Chinese businesses were hot on the heels of their U.S. counterparts, spending just under 4 percent of China’s GDP.

As a group, businesses in developed countries spent an average of 3.2 percent of their respective countries’ GDPs on ICT goods, while businesses in the developing world spent less—just 2.8 percent, on average. But developing economies receive more productivity benefit on

Read the rest

Music Piracy: Streaming to an App Near You

The distribution of music has evolved over time, from records, tapes, and CDs, to downloading and streaming online from computers, mobile devices, and a growing array of connected devices in the home and car. Music piracy has also evolved as those peddling and consuming infringing content adapt to new technologies. A new study from MusicWatch (a research firm that focuses on the music and entertainment industries) highlights the changing nature of music piracy and shows that while there is no “silver bullet” to combating online piracy, stakeholders involved in protecting intellectual property need to adapt their efforts to meet this evolving challenge.

The study has four main findings: music piracy is still prevalent; “streamripping” of music has emerged alongside the rise in legitimate music streaming services; music apps and app stores play an increasingly important role in music piracy; and piracy has a substantial negative impact on musicians and content owners.

First, the MusicWatch study shows that music piracy is still rampant, with an estimated 57 million Americans engaged in some form of illegal online downloading or streaming of music. In December 2015, the study surveyed 1,000 U.S. respondents aged

Read the rest

High-Growth Entrepreneurship for Development: Report of a Roundtable with Michael Dell

Policymakers around the world have increasingly come to realize that entrepreneurship, particularly high-growth entrepreneurship (HGE), is critical for economic development in nations at all levels of development. That is one reason the United Nations Foundation asked Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Inc., to be the Global Advocate for Entrepreneurship and to work closely with the Foundation and its Global Entrepreneurs Council to help shape and advance a global entrepreneurship agenda.

To inform the Council’s thinking, Michael Dell led a meeting in Washington, DC, on December 2, 2014, hosted by 1776, a cutting-edge “accelerator” to help technology-based entrepreneurs translate their ideas into growing businesses. The meeting participants included tech-based entrepreneurs and policymakers, and I was asked to participate and serve as rapporteur.

Michael Dell opened up the roundtable with a discussion of proposed policy mechanisms to spur high growth entrepreneurship, including ensuring access to capital, technology, talent, and markets. The following is a summary of the themes and recommendations from the discussion.

The Nature of Technology-Enabled Entrepreneurship Opportunities

Policymakers around the world are interested in HGE because they understand that technology opportunities driving this type of entrepreneurship have exploded.

Read the rest

What Would the Wright Brothers Think?

What a difference a century makes. No, not in technological innovation, but in technological pessimism. As David McCullough writes in his new history of the Wright brothers, their discovery was met with near universal excitement and optimism, even in the face of setbacks, some of them fatal. Today, a century later, innovation and innovators are more often met with skepticism, approbation, and opposition.

Case in point is from Joe Nocera’s op-ed in The New York Times about Google’s driverless car effort, as part of its Google X project. Nocera relates how John Simpson, head of the nonprofit Consumer Watchdog, bought a few shares of Google stock so he can go to their board meeting to berate Google executives for developing an autonomous vehicle. Simpson noted that Google’s cars have been involved in 11 accidents (although all have been minor and none of them caused by the AV car itself). He also warned that the Google car would steal our privacy. In other words, he berated Google for trying to innovate what could well be one of the most important technological breakthroughs of the 21st century. Indeed, as I wrote

Read the rest