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New Legislation Wants to Ensure All Publicly Funded Discoveries are Made In America

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The Invent Here, Make Here Act would tighten the domestic manufacturing waiver process at all federal agencies that commercialize their research, and adds another layer of review. It’s a great idea.

A bill just introduced in the U.S. Senate would expand restrictions on the foreign manufacture of breakthrough technologies discovered by publicly funded research.

The Invent Here, Make Here Act of 2023 builds on a law that passed as part of a big defense bill this January, which strengthened waivers for domestic manufacturing requirements for inventions borne out of research at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Now lawmakers want to expand it to all federal agencies that commercialize federal research.

“When taxpayer dollars are used to fund innovation, American companies and workers are the ones who should be reaping the benefits,” said Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who is co-sponsoring the bill with Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio).

“By building on the progress we’ve made to manufacture more products in the USA, the Invent Here, Make Here Act ensures cutting-edge American innovation is also American-made, bolstering our manufacturing sector, strengthening our domestic supply chains, and supporting American jobs,” she said. Sen. Baldwin, a longtime advocate for Made In America, was also a sponsor of the earlier law.

That law was spurred by a 2022 NPR investigation that found potentially revolutionary battery technology developed at a U.S. Department of Energy lab was licensed to a company that took its production to China, and that the department was “violating its own licensing rules while failing to intervene on behalf of U.S. workers in multiple instances, according to internal department emails.”

The battery story clearly hit a nerve with lawmakers, who passed the first law targeting tech waivers from DHS labs with wide support. And the strength by which it passed showed a real appetite for enhancing manufacturing licensing rules at all federal agencies.

That’s what the new legislation does. The Invent Here, Make Here Act also adds an additional layer of review for all waivers, entirely prohibits any licenses for companies that intend to manufacture in a “country of concern” – currently China, Russia, North Korea and Iran – and directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology to improve coordination between federal agencies to “encourage the commercialization of federal research by domestic manufacturers.”

In summary? It’s a great idea, and the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) is on board with it.

Said AAM President Scott Paul:

“We applaud Senators Tammy Baldwin and JD Vance for introducing this bill to ensure more federally-funded inventions are manufactured here in the United States. This legislation will tighten up the lax waiver process that has allowed far too many of these breakthroughs to be licensed to foreign competitors and produced abroad. It also ensures we stop supporting bad actors like China with our own taxpayer-funded R&D.

“Instead, the ‘Invent Here, Make Here Act’ will put these investments to good use, building resilient domestic supply chains and creating manufacturing jobs right here at home.”

Read more about the bill here.

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