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President Bill Clinton last week emphasized that the government must increase its investment in a "balanced portfolio" of research and development to continue economic growth that has created 20 million jobs in seven years.
At a Presidential briefing Friday on economic growth, Mr. Clinton said that his administration had worked hard to increase the budget "not only for biomedical research that had strong support in our Congress, but for other science and engineering disciplines, as well... We have to have a balanced research portfolio, because the research enterprise is increasingly interdependent. Advances in health care, for example, are often dependent on breakthroughs in other disciplines -- such as the physics needed for medical imaging technology, or the computer science needed to develop more drugs more rapidly, or to continue the mapping of the human genome."
The speech was considered the strongest statement to date by the President in support of an overarching goal of research universities, articulated in Washington by MIT President Charles Vest and the Science Coalition that MIT helped found several years ago.
The President released a report stating that, as of last month, 20,043,000 jobs had been created since January 1993. Mr. Clinton noted that "over 80 percent of the jobs are in job categories that pay above the median wage. They are mostly full-time, not part-time."
He continued, "Technology has been a very important part of this economic performance. It has given us big productivity gains. The information technology sector alone has been responsible for about a third of our economic growth. And jobs in that sector pay nearly 80 percent more than the private-sector average. If we want our current prosperity to continue into the 21st century, we must therefore clearly continue to encourage the creation and the spread of new technologies in our own economy."
Mr. Clinton announced that this month he will sign the bill to extend for five years the life of the vitally important research and experimentation tax credit, which he said "is important because this tax credit gives private firms the incentives they need to invest in innovative technologies that often don't show up quickly on the bottom line, but that over the long run will be highly profitable, and that immediately provide tremendous benefits to society as a whole."
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 8, 1999.