From software developers, to internet technology providers, to telecommunications firms, to biotech and life sciences companies, New England is home to a thriving, multi-billion dollar technology sector. Our region is considered a global innovation hub, and technologies and devices developed in New England have changed the way that we do business around the world. The technology sector also represents a large and consistently growing sector of our region’s workforce. The Council’s Technology Committee supports policies that encourage technological advancement, promote innovation and research, safeguard critical infrastructure and intellectual property, and develop a skilled workforce to fill critical positions in the technology sector. The committee is co-chaired by Chris Goode of EMC Corporation and Annmarie Levins of Microsoft. The NEC staff contacts for this committee are Emily Heisig and Taylor Pichette.
Protecting Intellectual Property
For a wide variety of innovative businesses in New England and across the nation, intellectual property s is a tremendous asset. Protecting this intellectual property is critical to driving innovation that is so key to continued economic growth and global competitiveness. In recent years, businesses have lacked the necessary tools to protect one type of intellectual property: trade secrets. Trade secrets can include a wide range of information, including manufacturing processes, product development, source code, industrial techniques, formulas, pricing information, and customer lists. Unfortunately, businesses are increasingly the target of sophisticated efforts to steal trade secrets. While there are currently various state laws in place to address the theft of trade secrets, there are not adequate measures in place at the federal level to address the interstate and international nature of trade secret theft in the 21st century.
In July 2015, legislation to close this gap in the law, the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2015 (DTSA), was introduced in both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. This bipartisan legislation would establish a federal civil right of action for businesses to protect trade secrets in U.S. federal courts. It would provide a consistent, harmonized legal framework and would help minimize the commercial injury and loss of employment that can result when trade secrets are stolen.
Since DTSA’s introduction, The New England Council has actively advocated for the legislation’s enactment through letters to members of the New England delegation, meetings with Congressional staff, op-ed pieces in various regional publications, and participating in a broad industry coalition supporting the bill. As a result of the Council’s efforts, 8 New England Senators and 16 New England House members signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.
On April 4, 2016, the bill passed the Senate by a vote of 87-0, and on April 27, 2016, the bill passed the House by a vote of 410-2. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law on May 11, 2016.
Cybersecurity and the threat of cyber attacks continue to be a significant concern for businesses of all types and sizes throughout New England, and the topic of much debate by Congress and federal regulators in Washington, DC. In recent years, the Council has hosted several informative events and discussions focused on cybersecurity policy in both Boston and Washington, DC.
Most recently, the Technology Committee sponsored a Cybersecurity Policy Forum in Boston on April 10, 2015. The forum was hosted by NEC member WilmerHale and focused on current threat landscape and policy initiatives to safeguard against attacks. The forum featured keynote remarks from Robert Mueller, the former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, who is now a partner at WilmerHale. Following Mr. Mueller’s remarks, a panel of cybersecurity experts representing a variety of NEC members discussed their organizations’ efforts to prevent and respond to cyber threats, and some of the current federal policy proposals relative to cybersecurity.
Following keynote remarks by Mr. Mueller, fellow WilmerHale Partner Jonathan Cedarbaum moderated a panel of experts from various NEC member organizations:
Michael Brown, Rear Admiral, USN (Ret), Vice President and General Manager, RSA Global Public Sector
Angela McKay, Director of Cybersecurity Policy, Microsoft
James Noga, Vice President & Chief Information Officer, Partners HealthCare
Mike Steinmetz, Director Digital Risk and Security, Strategy and Planning, National Grid
In order to continue to grow and compete globally, innovative technology-focused businesses in New England are dependent on a highly skilled workforce, and in particular, workers with advanced training in the STEM fields. Unfortunately, our region currently faces a shortage of STEM workers, which presents a significant challenge for a wide variety of employers in New England.
To help meet this demand, the New England Council has long supported increasing the cap on H-1B visas to allow more foreign-born workers with advanced skills and training to remain in the U.S. and contribute to the local economy. At the same time, the Council has also advocated for investment in STEM education to train American students for 21st century job opportunities. In April 2015, the Council wrote to members of the New England Congressional delegation urging them to support the Immigration Innovation Act of 2015, known as “I-Squared.” This bipartisan legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate seeks to close the STEM skills gap in the United States with both a short-term and a long-term solution. In the short term, the legislation increases the number of H-1B visas available each year. In the long term, the bill allocates a portion of the fees collected from H-1B visa applications to fund STEM education initiatives at the state level. The Council believes this commonsense approach would benefit our region’s employers and ensure that U.S companies have the workers they need to compete in the 21st century global economy.
Working closely with the Council’s Higher Education Committee, the Technology Committee has also focused on encouraging partnerships between industry and higher education to best prepare students to compete in the 21st century global economy. To explore some of the successful partnership models already in place in our region, the Technology Committee ad Higher Education Committee hosted a Talent Pipeline Forum in September 2015. Hosted by NEC member Microsoft and their New England Research and Development (NERD) Center in Cambridge, the forum featured keynote remarks from Lumina Foundation CEO Jamie Merisotis, author of “America Needs Talent.” Following Meriostis’ remarks, a panel of NEC members representing both employers and higher education institutions, discussed some of the partnership models in place in the region to address the shortage of high skilled workers.