The Start-up Act: Building America’s Entrepreneurial Future
Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), both first term Senators, discussed key components of the Start-up Act, which they have authored and introduced. The two Senators sat down with PAGE Director Kent Hughes to talk about why we need to keep talented people in the United States, especially in STEM fields and how the government can best serve entrepreneurs through regulations, taxes, and encouraging talent. A panel discussion followed with an examination of the prospects of accelerating the commercialization of university research, increasing opportunities for immigrants with advanced STEM degrees and adding a STEM category for immigrant investors seeking permanent residence. The panelists were Paula Collins the Vice President of Government Relations at Texas Instruments Incorporated, Toby Smith the Vice President for Policy with the Association of American Universities, and Audrey Singer a Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution.
Senator Moran kicked-off the event by briefing the audience on how the Start-up Act came into being. It was influenced heavily by a Kauffman Foundation report on entrepreneurship and business that included numerous policy recommendations. Additionally, the passing of the JOBS Act gave the two Senators hope that a bi-partisan effort which supported job creation legislation was possible. Sen. Moran also stated how important it was to keep the Visa portion of the bill intact, although it would eventually be a controversial topic. The Kansas Senator stressed the importance of creating circumstances in the United States to win the global competition for talent, which goes hand-in-hand with immigration reform especially for foreign nationals who are educated at the highest level in the United States.
Senator Warner continued the discussion by noting that the United States had a competitive advantage in many sectors for a long time, but now there is more competition than ever from abroad and the United States needs to retain the best and brightest of its students so they can go on to create jobs and grow the economy. The United States has some of the best Universities in the world, and we draw a lot of talented international students to study here, but then they graduate and go home, we should want to keep them here so they can contribute to our economy. Sen. Warner also noted how the Start-up act address the problems that start-up companies face with going public and funding their businesses. The Senators hope to make it easier for new companies to enter the capital market through their legislation.
During the question and answer portion the Senators touched upon the fact that other developed countries, such as Canada, have recently changed their Visa regulations regarding graduate students in STEM fields who wish to stay in the country, which is something that the Start-up Act supports. To ensure that U.S. companies hire within the United States and keep their workforce in the United States, they need a labor pool, some of which will be native born Americans, and many of whom will be foreign born, U.S. educated graduates. The main theme of the Senators’ discussion was that it is in the best interests of the United States to retain talented individuals, whether foreign or domestic, so they can contribute to growing the U.S. economy.
The second panel addressed some of the issues surrounding immigration reform and university research commercialization within the bill. Audrey Singer detailed the U.S. Visas already in place for working in a STEM field, investing in a U.S company, and being exceptionally talented, however there is no Visa for foreign born individuals looking to start a business in the United States; something that is proposed in the Start-up Act. Singer noted that “in the global race for talent, the talented have choices,” and we want them to choose the United States. Paula Collins stressed the importance of looking at the issue as an economics issue rather than an immigration one, since the United States reaps the economic benefit. In regards to University research, Toby Smith mentioned Section 7 of the Start-up Act, which attempts to improve University commercialization: the process through which research conducted through an academic institution can be transferred into a commercial sector. He cited examples at Stanford, including Google and Hewlett Packard. Smith addressed some of the concerns he has with Section 7, but agreed that technology transfer needs to be more accessible to faculty and students.
Collins summed up the morning with her thoughts about developing an “ecosystem” for the United States to be the most innovative it can be through three key approaches. The first is comprehensive immigration reform, the second is funding research at Universities to ensure that the best ideas come from the United States, and the third approach is creating a competitive environment here which includes tax and regulatory reform.