On Monday, Feb. 14. 2011, President Obama released his fiscal year 2012 budget plan, which aims to tackle the trillion-dollar deficit with several program cuts and freezes, but also increases spending in programs such as infrastructure, clean energy, innovation, and research. The administration is also placing a large focus on science education. Experts and critics alike have been pointing to decreasing pipelines, lack of training/education (as scientists retire and take their expertise with them), and flagging innovation as areas of concern in the pharma industry for years, and now, the government is opening the door to fix these very problems.
“…Since many companies do not invest in basic research that does not have an immediate pay-off, we—as a Nation—must devote our resources to these fundamental areas of scientific inquiry,” said the President in his budget message. He pointed out increases in the budget targeting investment in research and development that specifically contribute to fields such as biomedicine, nanotechnology, and advanced manufacturing. Sound familiar?
Not only is Obama encouraging growth in drug discovery and manufacturing technology, but it also seems that the time is ripe for this kind of call to action. Unemploymnet is going down (albeit slowly) and manufacturing is on the rise. Industry should take heart in the latest ISM Report on Business, which covers January 2011 data. According to the report, “economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in January for the 18th consecutive month.” In fact, according to the report, “The manufacturing sector grew at a faster rate in January as the PMI registered 60.8% which is its highest level since May 2004 when the index registered 61.4%.” Among the manufacturing sectors contributing to the reported data are chemical products and miscellaneous manufacturing, as well as 16 others.
Also this week, the Organization for Economic Development (OECD) released its composite leading indicators (CLIs)for December 2010, which highlight economic trends in OECD countries around the world. Surprisingly, new data for China points to a downturn and three of seven components predict a slowdown in India, according to the OECD press release on the updated numbers. CLIs are designed to provide early signals of turning points (peaks and troughs) between expansions and slowdowns of economic activity, according to the OECD website. The data could denote another opportunity for the US to gain ground.
In Obama’s words, “If this is truly our Sputnik moment, we need a commitment to innovation that we have not seen since President Kennedy challenged us to go to the moon.” Here’s to meeting the challenge.