INDIANAPOLIS – In a rare bipartisan move, the U.S. Senate passed the Endless Frontier Act, a $250 billion bill designed to boost the United States’ technological competitiveness with China, with a 69-32 vote.
Now renamed the United States Innovation and Competition Act, co-sponsored by Republican Indiana Sen. Todd Young and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, heads to the House for a full vote.
Young’s bill, as initially introduced, aimed to invest in technological innovation and manufacturing critical to national security as well as economic competitiveness, specifically at colleges and universities. After passing through several committees, the bill grew to include funding to shore up microchip shortages and spur other manufacturing.
“When it comes to the strategic rivalry between the United States and China, we are a unified country,” Young said about the vote in a Wednesday press conference. “The Endless Frontier Act (makes) a significant investment… from the technologists that might be trained at Ivy Tech Community College to the post (doctorate) students who will be trained in some engineering disciplines at Purdue University.”
Indiana leaders hope that some of the $10 million for regional technology hubs could land in the Hoosier State, something the Indiana Economic Development Corp. is already pursuing, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal.
“We would like to see the next Silicon Valleys across the heartland,” Young said. “As we pitch to land in one of these tech hubs … (it would mean) the attraction of venture capital investment to the tech hub area, the attraction of students to our university system, the retention of our most talented individuals in Indiana and the startup of new enterprises.”
Another aspect of the bill, $50 billion for semiconductor development and manufacturing, could be a boon to Indiana automakers, which have had to close sporadically and convert parking lots into large-scale storage facilities due to a global shortage of microchips.
In Kokomo, thousands of workers at the local Stellantis Transmission Plant, were furloughed for weeks last month and local union leaders anticipated the microchip shortage would drag on.
“I think this is going to be our new normal through the end of the year,” UAW Local 685 President Matt Jarvis told the Kokomo Tribune in May.
Young’s act includes $52 billion in emergency funding for domestic semiconductor manufacturing, which could help alleviate those manufacturing woes since most microchips come from abroad.
“We have become overly reliant, clearly, on other countries to fabricate our most sophisticated and high-end computer chips,” Young said. “Indiana is the most manufacturing intensive state in the country and therefore it’s essential that we have access to the feedstock of our manufacturing economy.
“This legislation… provides greater resiliency to our economy and reduces our dependency on other countries that (don’t) share our values and interests, like Communist China.”
The bill includes $81 billion for the National Science Foundation and $16.9 billion for the Department of Energy over the next five fiscal year periods and also bars U.S. diplomats from attending the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.