WASHINGTON, DC. December 7, 2007 - Yesterday Congressman Ken Calvert (R-CA), the former Chairman of the Science and Technology Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, along with Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH), introduced the bipartisan NASA Innovation Fund and Sponsorship Act, H.R. 4308.
"For far too long, our nation's civilian space and aeronautics agency has been operating with insufficient resources, while one of the most creative and cost-effective forms of innovation - prize competitions - has gone largely unnoticed by the public," stated Rep. Ken Calvert. "My legislation will provide NASA with a private funding mechanism to complement our nation's federal investment, and engage America's creative and innovative minds to help solve the difficult and challenging technical problems faced by NASA. I also believe this legislation will help NASA, through its Innovation Fund Partners, to promote and convey to the public the exciting technical challenges and rewarding educational aspects of NASA. We have a responsibility to support innovative ways to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics to enable us to maintain our security and high standards of living."
"I am very excited to join with my friend and colleague Rep. Ken Calvert in introducing the NASA Innovation Fund and Sponsorship Act," said Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones. "As an ardent supporter of NASA and its programs, I feel this legislation will go far in assisting NASA obtain some of its technological goals."
The NASA Innovation Fund and Sponsorship Act, would establish a trust fund account -- to be named the Innovation Fund (IF) -- to hold money generated from private sponsorship. The Innovation Fund monies will be dedicated to NASA's Centennial Challenges program. The Centennial Challenges program was authorized by Congress in 2005 and allows the awarding of prize money to teams that are able to solve difficult technical challenges.
The legislation would allow the Agency to seek partnership opportunities from corporations, universities, individuals, and other entities and accept money for the Innovation Fund in exchange for appropriate promotional programs. The legislation contains a number of safeguards designed to uphold the high standards of the agency, and preclude the use of corporate logos on NASA launch assets.
The Innovation Fund is not intended to substitute private-sector money from sponsorships for money Congress would otherwise appropriate. The Innovation Fund is intended to be a conduit to allow private-sector funding -- directed through the Centennial Challenges program -- to stimulate innovation and reward competitors that accomplish challenges set by NASA.
Another key component of the NASA Innovation Fund and Sponsorship Act is the vetting process by the Innovation Fund Sponsorship Advisory Committee. The advisory committee will consist of five private citizens with expertise in math or science education, as well as advertising and promotion. They, along with the NASA Administrator and the Chief of the Strategic Communications Office, will establish criteria to ensure that applicants are high-caliber, reputable entities, and screen all applications for appropriateness based on three components of the sponsorship application: the monetary contribution, the content of the promotional program and an educational component to encourage the study of math and science. The Advisory Committee is empowered only to make recommendations, all final decisions and actual agreements are fully at the discretion of the NASA Administration.
"The possibilities available to NASA through this legislation are endless," said Rep. Calvert. "The ability of NASA to reward private teams for science, engineering and technology advancements will be vital to maintaining our position as the premier leader in space and aeronautics. America is a country of pioneers and explorers. Let's keep this tradition alive through the NASA Innovation Fund and Sponsorship Act."