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Administration R&D memo emphasizes basic science

August 24, 2017

The White House Office of Management and Budget released a memorandum on R&D priorities that directs agencies to prioritize basic science and lower costs in their FY 2019 budget requests. R&D investments should be made in military superiority, security, prosperity, energy dominance and health. The memo repeatedly encourages officials to identify, and divest of, research areas where industry is ready to make their own investments toward commercial development.

The memo’s R&D priority practices are potentially impactful for regional innovation economies:

  • Increasing Government Accountability and Efficiency. Under this bullet, the administration requests an emphasis on R&D that could “contribute to the public good” but not in areas that can be conducted with private R&D investment;
  • Supporting Innovation Early-Stage Research. The memo directs agencies to consider basic and early-stage applied research and leave later-stage development to industry, although agencies are also encouraged to invest in adapting private innovations for federal use; and,
  • Maximizing Interagency Coordination. Given the wide-ranging nature of many R&D areas, agencies are encouraged to coordinate, particularly through the National Science and Technology Council.

Other priorities outlined in the memo direct agencies to consider initiatives that will expand the STEM workforce and implement models to share research facilities with non-federal research entities.

Within the area of American Prosperity, the administration identifies six areas for R&D investment that agencies should emphasize in their budget requests:

  • Autonomous systems;
  • Biometrics;
  • Energy storage;
  • Gene editing;
  • Machine learning; and,
  • Quantum computing.

The memo directs agencies to continue and expand efforts on basic research in these topics while reducing funding “overlaps with industry” in later-stage R&D and deployment.

r&d, federal agency r&d