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What Do The US Presidential Candidates Think About Innovation?

The US election campaigns are approaching the finish line, and it's time to find out how bright the future is for innovation

3Aug

There are only three months left until we find out who will be the next president of the US and tensions are rising. Candidates outlined their strategies on various matters, with innovation also on the list. In order to further support Silicon Valley's initiatives and ensure the country remains the world leader in innovation, the new President will need to clearly articulate their goals for industry development.

At the end of June, Hillary Clinton came up with the detailed innovation and technology plan. She suggested to significantly increase investments in education, basic research, IT infrastructure, R&D and other critical fields. As the nature of election campaigns is based on attracting votes, the legitimacy of statements can only be checked when the candidate is elected. The highlights of the suggested reforms include improvements in IP management, immigration and infrastructure reforms that are vital for Silicon Valley and the overall state of innovation in the country.

In order to increase the concentration of tech talent in Silicon Valley, tech leaders and hubs called for better immigration policies. Clinton promises to take measures, proposing to 'staple a green card' to the non-US MSc and PhD qualification holders in the fields of engineering and science. Clinton's rival, Donald Trump, on the other hand, made it clear that 'a nation without borders is not a nation'. Mr Trump believes in moderation of immigration and suggests that 'before any new green cards are issued to foreign workers abroad, there will be a pause where employers will have to hire from the domestic pool of unemployed immigrant and native workers,' according to his official statement on immigration policies.

Clinton's proposed changes look more modest in the Intellectual Property reform, where she suggested reducing 'excessive patent litigation'. Even though the move is not capable of resolving the whole issue with IP management in the US, it would noticeably ease and minimize costs with patent troll cases, where millions of dollars are often unnecessary paid for settlement, putting smaller companies at risk. In his campaign, Trump has put taxes and immigration at the top of his agenda, and no announcements were made in regards to IP protection. However, there is still time to surprise the public with new proposals.

Some points of Clinton's innovation plan, however, made business leaders worried. On the bright side, she believes in continuing Obama's support for the development of next generation mobile networks such as 5G and infrastructure. However, Clinton's broadband policies sounded less enthusiastic, with the suggestion to make internet access closely regulated as a public utility. Clinton believes it will speed up and minimize the investments needed for infrastructure improvement, but business leaders are worried that nearly $1.5 trillion spent on broadband infrastructure in the last 20 years won't be recognized.

Despite Trump's experience in business, his views on innovation weren't received well amongst business leaders. More than 100 business leaders in tech signed a letter, naming Trump a 'disaster for innovation', based on his views on immigration, cybersecurity and government investment in the field: 'We stand against Donald Trump's divisive candidacy and want a candidate who embraces the ideals that built America's technology industry: freedom of expression, openness to newcomers, equality of opportunity, public investments in research and infrastructure and respect for the rule of law.'

Trump's current views include the abandonment of climate protection and energy efficiency policies and suggestions on restoring the coal industry to make 'every dollar of energy work'. The lack of clarity in Trump's statements on the future of technology and the life of Silicon Valley are one of the main reasons for rising negativity amongst tech CEOs.

Despite Trump often causing controversies by his manner of expression, he also acknowledges that reforms wouldn't make sense if the country's economy is not in a good state, therefore he is focused on reforms in taxes. In response to this, the Co-Founder of PayPal Peter Thiel said that 'Trump is the only candidate, to be honest about the country's economic decline.'

In either scenario, the next leader of the US will face challenges and calls to make important decisions to grow the economy, the public sector and innovation. Over the years, though, the nature of presidential campaigns hasn't changed much globally, with big promises being made and results often undelivered.

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