Last week’s blog focused on the potentially negative impact that President-elect Trump could have on the STEM community, based on statements he made on the campaign trail and before. This week we examine the other side of the coin and look at the areas where the new administration could have a positive effect on science, technology, engineering and innovation in the US.
The name ‘Trump’ is a business brand in itself, so it is not surprising that innovation is the first area where there may be cause for optimism. OECD data shows that the US spends more on research and development than any other in the world. As a businessman, Trump is keen to see this continue, telling Science Debate that: “Innovation has always been one of the great by-products of free market systems. Entrepreneurs have always found entries into markets by giving consumers more options for the products they desire.”
He continued by adding that although “there are increasing demands to curtail spending and to balance the federal budget, we must make the commitment to invest in science, engineering, healthcare and other areas that will make the lives of Americans better, safer and more prosperous.”
Equally positively, Mr Trump also recognises the value of taking the long-term view on investing in research“Scientific advances do require long-term investment,” he said. “This is why we must have programs such as a viable space program and institutional research that serve as incubators to innovation and the advancement of science and engineering in a number of fields.”
Before the election ,the Clinton campaign had worried the US Biotech industry, which was concerned about the impact of extra regulation. This was not surprising after Mrs Clinton’s tweet about the costs of EpiPens sent the price of shares at EpiPen manufacturer Mylan down 5%. Mr Trump will not be as feared by the Biotech sector, particularly after his pre-election promise to lift the ban on importing medicines and speed up the approval of generic drugs.
In terms of engineering, the $1 trillion commitment from Mr Trump to rebuild the country’s infrastructure is promising. “We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals,” he said in his victory speech. “We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become… second to none.”
This investment is much needed, as a study from ARTBA (the American Road and Transport Builders Association) showed that there are more than 200 million daily crossings on “58,495 U.S. structurally deficient bridges in need of repair”. That is almost 10% of all bridges in the US. There is some debate whether the fiscally conservative Congress will approve such investment, and whether it will find the private sector investment it also needs, but the pledge should be noted and applauded if successful.
So whilst it is understandable that some aspects of the STEM community are nervous about the President-elect, we cannot ignore the fact that some areas could benefit, and even thrive, under his leadership.
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