Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Lawmakers Seek to Invest in Science

By on May 12, 2021

Rep. Jesús Manuel Ortiz

Introduce Measures to Gauge Viability of Budgeting for R&D

SAN JUAN — Popular Democratic Party (PDP) majority Reps. Jesús Manuel Ortiz and Ramón Luis Cruz on Wednesday introduced House Bill 384, which seeks research on the effects of investing resources and capital in the knowledge economy. The bill also aims to assess the viability of the government of Puerto Rico investing in scientific research and development.

“With this bill, we seek to explore the possibility for the island to develop a public policy focused on the creation and development of innovation capabilities that allow us to take advantage of the accelerated technological change and an open economy, promoting strategies focused on the knowledge economy,” Ortiz said in a media release. “It is well known that every dollar invested in science can come back between two and up to 10 times more than what was invested. That is why it is important to encourage investment in scientific research and development on the island.”

Recently, President Joe Biden announced that he was including in the American Jobs Plan subsidies for research so that new technologies are developed, with the goal of driving the American economy through innovation.

“The fact that president of the United States is allocating financial resources … for scientific research and development is undoubtedly the right way to go,” the PDP lawmaker added. “Puerto Rico has to look into that sector of the economy that certainly has incredible potential for the first-rate human resource that is educated on the island. We must allocate resources for this economic sector that will undoubtedly help our battered economy in the future.”

According to the Puerto Rico Statistics Institute, in 2014-2015, some $443 million was invested in R&D, 69 percent of which was invested by the private sector. However, that only accounts for 0.43 percent of the island’s gross domestic product (GDP), reflecting sets Puerto Rico behind in the investment of this sector.

“We must move towards a technology industry,” stressed Cruz, who chairs the House Public Safety, Science and Technology Committee. “This means that the public policy that is developed be based on science and technology, which will allow the island to insert itself into a globalized and innovation economy. It is not acceptable that we want to compete with other countries such as Finland, which invests an estimated 3.5 percent of its GDP in research and development or with Latin American countries such as Brazil and Argentina that invest 1.26 percent and 0.54 percent [respectively] in these sectors.”

The lawmakers concluded that “the island needs to direct its efforts toward establishing a new development strategy based on science and technological advances.”

They said the goal “can be achieved through various initiatives carried out by the government such as tax incentives; directing public credits, grants and increased funds and resources for institutions such as the Puerto Rico Science, Technology & Research Trust, among many others.” 

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