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US considers $33bn sci/tech funding package

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The US House of Representatives has called for $33.6bn of funding for science and technology research. The cash is part of the "America Competes Act" (seriously, who names these things?), which was waved through by a thumping 367-57 vote.

The package outlines state grants worth $150m for various education schemes, as well as more substantial investments in the National Science Foundation, the science programmes at the Department of Energy and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The bill also calls for publicly funded research to be made available to the public.

It had the backing of the US Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and major technology trade associations, CNet reports.

Texas Instruments CEO, and head of the Semiconductor Industry Association Richard Templeton, said in a statement: "Increased support for basic research and math and science education is the key to maintaining US leadership. Today's action by the House demonstrates that Congress understands that connection."

The House minority leader John Boehner said the bill focused on the wrong areas. He said American firms were being hampered in a globally competitive market by stringent regulations and high corporate taxes.

Other critics wondered where, in the face of a hefty federal deficit, the money outlined in the bill is going to come from.

Indeed, mere approval of the bill does not guarantee the money. Real-world cash allocation is subject to congressional votes and presidential approval. But if the bill gains the support of the Senate in a vote later today, it could lay the ground work for three years of serious investment in science and technology programmes across the US.

The EU's last science and technology research package, which covers projects that run up to 2013, was voted through last November. It allocated some €54bn to the area, a 40 per cent increase on the previous package. ®

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