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Program Announcement -- National Commission

June 18, 2020

Innovation Leaders Propose Nine Pillars for Competing in the Next Economy

National commission of CEOs, university presidents, labor leaders and national laboratory directors releases definitive list of priorities for advancing American innovation and competitiveness in the COVID-19 era

WASHINGTON, DC, June 18, 2020 – Nearly 200 innovation leaders from every sector of our economy participated in 48 virtual workshops this spring during an unprecedented pandemic and recession that reached every corner of the economy to identify problem areas and critical solution for both the public and private sectors. Their collective efforts focused on creating the foundation for a national action plan to expand U.S. innovation capacity and competitiveness. As members of the nonpartisan Council on Competitiveness’ “National Commission on Innovation and Competitiveness Frontiers,” this distinguished group of leaders today released its definitive list of nine pillars that are essential for America’s broad-based and shared economic recovery and productivity, and for raising the standard of living of all Americans.

“The U.S. has entered a new era in a few short months. We face twin challenges of a pandemic and a recession that have intensified huge disparities and inequities,” said Dr. Mehmood Khan, CEO, Life Biosciences, Inc. and Chairman, Council on Competitiveness. “The National Commission is organizing the leadership necessary to create a national action plan for us all to address an age of heightened global competition and range of critical societal and geopolitical challenges crying out for attention.”

Chaired by Dr. Mehmood Khan, Mr. Brian Moynihan, Chairman and CEO of Bank of America, Dr. Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University, Mr. Lonnie Stephenson, International President of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the Honorable Deborah L. Wince-Smith, President and CEO, Council on Competitiveness, the National Commission is a group of 62 of the nation’s top CEOs, university presidents, labor leaders, and national laboratory directors — and a broader community of expert teams and innovation stakeholders.

As part of the National Commission’s work to develop the action plan for competing in the post-COVID-19 economy, the 62 National Commissioners launched in January 2020 three working groups that focus on finding solutions for major national challenges related to U.S. competitiveness. The working groups are:

  • Working Group 1: Developing and Deploying at Scale Disruptive Technologies
  • Working Group 2: Exploring the Future of Sustainable Production and Consumption, and Work
  • Working Group 3: Optimizing the U.S. Innovation System

From these working groups, the National Commissioners identified nine pillars for restarting America’s competitive economy, involving greater numbers of Americans in the innovation ecosystem, and bringing greater prosperity — both for America and every American. The nine pillars of the national action plan include:

  1.  Build a Diverse Pipeline of Innovators – Encourage and support more women, and racial and ethnic minorities in the pursuit of innovation and entrepreneurship.
  2.  Prepare America’s Workforce for the Future – Invest more in STEM education and worker retraining for coming market disruptions.
  3. Expand the U.S. Map of Innovation Investment Hubs – Build more diverse engines for innovation across the United States.
  4.  Secure U.S. Capabilities in Critical Technologies – Including microelectronics, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology.
  5. Strengthen U.S. Economic Resiliency – Regain control of critical supply chains and reduce dependency on China and other foreign sources.
  6. Confront China’s plans for technological, military, and commercial supremacy.
  7. Amplify U.S. University Investments – Particularly in technology transfer, commercialization and industry engagement.
  8. Bridge the “Valley of Death” Gap in Innovation – Grow government investment in small business innovation, startups, and the testing of new technologies.
  9. Deepen the Sustainability Culture in U.S. Businesses – Including more efficient use of energy, use of cleaner energy, and more sustainable materials sourcing.

Over the next six months, the National Commission will deeply examine each of these nine pillars. Through the working groups­ — including the announcement of a new, fourth group focusing on unleashing the capabilities of the U.S. workforce­ — the National Commission will identify central, systematic challenges under each pillar and make policy, investment, and organizational recommendations to advance U.S. competitiveness in each.

“Our future economic strength, inclusive prosperity, and national security are not assured,” said the Honorable Deborah L. Wince-Smith, President and CEO, Council on Competitiveness. “Navigating and succeeding in this new and ever-shifting environment will require the United States — its governments, its companies, its colleges and universities, and its people — to find new pathways to a more competitive and prosperous future.”

Competing in the Next Economy Video Op-ed Series

Amplifying the nine pillars of the national action plan, the National Commission on Innovation and Competitiveness Frontiers launched “CompetingintheNextEconomy,” a series of video op-eds available at At launch, five National Commissioners have released video op-eds, calling for greater leadership, inclusivity, diversity, resiliency, adaptability, cooperation, and innovation. Additional video op-eds will be released monthly to provide thoughtful insights about how America can best unlock its full innovation and economic potential.

About the Council on Competitiveness 

For more than three decades, the Council on Competitiveness (Council) has championed a competitiveness agenda for the United States to attract investment and talent and spur the commercialization of new ideas. While the players may have changed since its founding in 1986, the mission remains as vital as ever—to enhance U.S. productivity and raise the standard of living for all Americans.

The members of the Council — CEOs, university presidents, labor leaders and national lab directors—represent a powerful, nonpartisan voice that sets aside politics and seeks results. By providing real-world perspective to policymakers, the Council’s private sector network makes an impact on decision-making across a broad spectrum of issues — from the cutting- edge of science and technology, to the democratization of innovation, to the shift from energy weakness to strength that supports the growing renaissance in U.S. manufacturing. The Council firmly believes that with the right policies, the strengths and potential of the U.S. economy far outweigh the current challenges the nation faces on the path to higher growth and greater opportunity for all Americans.

Media Contact, Council on Competitiveness, (202) 969-3380, [email protected]

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