November 12, 2020
Press Release
Innovation Centers Acceleration Act launches national competition and $80 Billion investment in high-tech hubs across America. Rochester uniquely poised to capitalize, creating local jobs and supporting growth of regional economy if selected.

(Rochester, NY) – Today, Congressman Joe Morelle announced the introduction of groundbreaking new legislation to drive economic recovery and build resiliency in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Innovation Centers Acceleration Act would establish an $80 Billion national investment in 9 Innovation Centers over 9 years, as determined by a national competition among major metropolitan areas.

“As we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we need bold investment to jump-start our economy and get Americans back to work. We can accomplish both while also creating long-term growth opportunity by investing in innovation,” said Congressman Joe Morelle. “Not only is this a sector in which Monroe County is uniquely poised to lead thanks to our world-class universities and high-tech institutions, it is one that holds significant untapped potential across the country. My legislation would help strengthen our economy and create jobs at a time when it’s needed most, and I look forward to partnering with my colleagues in Congress to move it forward.”

“On behalf of Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and Finger Lakes area business, I want to thank Congressman Joe Morelle for his leadership in introducing the Innovation Centers Acceleration Ac,” said Bob Duffy, President & CEO of Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce. “Investment like this is exactly what our nation needs to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and build an even stronger economy moving forward. We agree that Monroe County will be a strong contender for one of the nine designations, given our wealth of talent and legacy of innovation that continues today. We look forward to working with local stakeholders to secure this much-needed support.”

“Innovation is in the Rochester region’s DNA and there is no better time to capitalize on the exceptional strengths and assets of communities such as ours as we recover from the COVID pandemic,” said RIT President David C. Munson, Jr.  “It’s no surprise to see Congressman Joe Morelle leading the way in introducing the Innovation Centers Acceleration Act, and we commend his vision and longstanding appreciation of the role that universities such as RIT can serve in building a thriving community.”

“I thank Congressman Morelle for his leadership on behalf of our community, his incredible support of our institution, and his excitement for Rochester’s future, which I share,” said University of Rochester President Sarah Mangelsdorf. “The Innovation Centers Acceleration Act builds on the historic partnership between the federal government and research universities, like the University of Rochester, that has helped shape the modern world, driven U.S. global competitiveness, and is the bedrock of today’s innovation economy. Sadly, U.S. leadership and prosperity is threatened due to declining federal support for scientific research, increased foreign investment, and inequities between a small number of cities that have reaped the benefits of the innovation economy versus the many that have not.  By building on existing collaborations, targeting federal investment, strengthening university-industry partnerships, catalyzing technology commercialization, and retaining its talented labor pool, Rochester has all the necessary ingredients to be a next generation technology hub and regional growth center. I am happy to support the Innovation Centers Acceleration Act that would further power our work to help build an ever better future.”

Only five innovation hubs—Boston, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, and San Diego—accounted for more than 90% of the nation’s innovation sector growth from 2005 to 2017. Meanwhile, 191 of 382 U.S. metro areas have lost innovation jobs in the same period of time. These regions are losing out on productivity growth that play a vital role in creating jobs and raising living standards, which are critically important as we recover from the economic damage caused by the current global pandemic. The Rochester region has been identified by Brookings and the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation as one of the top growth opportunities.

The Innovation Centers Acceleration Act launches a national race-to-the-top for new American Innovation Centers. A national Selection Committee representing federal agencies and advised by labor unions, research institutions, and private industry will oversee a national competition among U.S. metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) to become an established Innovation Center.

Eligible MSAs will apply for one of nine Innovation Center designations, in which

the federal government will invest $80 billion over 9 years. Applicants will present a plan to devote state, local, and private sector resources in pursuing the takeoff of one or more innovation-based sectors, based on existing technical advantages, local research institutions, and industry core competencies. MSAs must include plans to foster racial equity and inclusive growth, ensure affordable housing, and scale up education and workforce development. The primary federal support runs through the National Science Foundation (NSF), which will award grants rising to nearly $1 billion per year for each Innovation Center.

Full details on the legislation can be found here. The bill is co-led by Rep. Terri Sewell, Senator Chris Coons, and Senator Dick Durbin and is supported by numerous national organizations:

“The Innovation Centers Acceleration Act takes a significant step toward keeping the United States globally competitive in the industries that will shape the 21st century,” said Rep. Terri Sewell. “Mid-size cities like Birmingham have the talent and skill to become hubs of innovation, and this legislation will help unlock their untapped potential. Our future success will require a national competitiveness strategy and robust investments in sectors like advanced manufacturing and biomedical technology, and the Innovation Centers Acceleration Act moves us toward these shared goals.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us to reimagine how we invest in economic development and innovation within our cities,” said Rep. Durbin. “The Innovation Centers Acceleration Act will empower federal agencies to work alongside our research institutions and private industry, and invest federal resources towards making U.S. cities hubs for innovation, science, and breakthrough discoveries.”

“We can rebuild our economy from the COVID-19 pandemic and we must do so in a way that improves equity and outcomes for all Americans – across all regions and socioeconomic groups. By broadening federal investment in tech, medicine, advanced manufacturing, and cybersecurity, we can do both,” said Senator Coons. “The Innovation Centers Acceleration Act will not only strategically fund new R&D, but it will also make sure new cities and regions can share in the growth of the modern economy. With the bill now introduced in the House, we look toward passing it and catalyzing a new generation of American innovation.”

“In recent years the hyper-concentration of U.S. technology activity in a few ‘superstar’ cities has likely harmed the industry while breeding unacceptable economic and social divides. Now, though, the Innovation Centers Acceleration Act proposes to counter this excessive divergence by helping some promising new places gain traction in the sector,” said Mark Muro, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. “At last maybe the nation is ready to really try to widen tech’s circle to promote wider opportunity—and enhance U.S. competitiveness.”

“Advanced technology jobs play a key role in American competitiveness and economic opportunity. But too many are concentrated in too few places,” said Rob Atkinson, President of Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF). “The Innovation Centers Acceleration Act would play an important and needed role in helping spread the advanced tech economy to more places in America, not only helping more places and people gain needed opportunity, but also spurring overall U.S. global competitiveness.”

“The Association of American Colleges and Universities is pleased to endorse the Innovation Centers Acceleration Act of 2020, which would provide an urgently needed spur to innovation that is calibrated to meet the equally urgent need for equitable economic growth in the post-pandemic recovery,” said David Tritelli, Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs at the Association of American Colleges and Universities.