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Biden Administration releases executive order regarding future of AI in the US including specific directions for DOE, NSF, DOC and SBA

November 02, 2023
By: Michele Hujber

The Biden Administration issued an executive order earlier this week that provides guidance on the safe, secure, and trustworthy development and use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the U.S. The EO includes guidance for agencies to work to provide new opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs in AI and other directives.

NSF is directed in section 5.2 (iii) (b) to launch a pilot program implementing the National AI Research Resource (NAIRR). The program is intended to "pursue the infrastructure, governance mechanisms, and user interfaces to pilot an initial integration of distributed computational, data, model, and training resources to be made available to the research community in support of AI-related research and development.”

The EO also calls for NSF to “fund and launch at least one NSF Regional Innovation Engine that prioritizes AI-related work, such as AI-related research, societal, or workforce needs.”

Section 5.3 focuses on promoting competition. The EO names the Department of Commerce as the agency responsible for promoting competition and innovation in the semiconductor industry, noting that “semiconductors power AI technologies and that their availability is critical to AI competition.” The EO tasks the department with:

  • implementing a flexible membership structure for the National Semiconductor Technology Center that includes startups and small firms,
  • implementing mentorship programs,
  • increasing the availability of resources to startups and small businesses, and
  • considering the inclusion of competition-increasing measures in notices of funding availability for commercial research-and-development facilities focused on semiconductors, including measures that increase access to facility capacity for startups or small firms developing semiconductors used to power AI technologies.

Section 5.3 also includes directives for the Small Business Administration to support small businesses innovating and commercializing AI. Specifically, the EO directs the agency to:

  • prioritize the allocation of Regional Innovation Cluster program funding for clusters that support planning activities related to the establishment of one or more Small Business AI Innovation and Commercialization Institutes that provide support, technical assistance, and other resources to small businesses seeking to innovate, commercialize, scale, or otherwise advance the development of AI;
  • prioritize the allocation of up to $2 million in Growth Accelerator Fund Competition bonus prize funds for accelerators that support the incorporation or expansion of AI-related curricula, training, technical assistance, or other AI-related resources within their programming; and,
  • assess the extent to which the eligibility criteria of existing programs, including the State Trade Expansion Program, Technical and Business Assistance funding, and capital-access programs—such as the 7(a) loan program, 504 loan program, and Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program—support appropriate expenses by small businesses related to the adoption of AI and, if feasible and appropriate, revise eligibility criteria to improve support for these expenses. 

No indication is given in the EO as to what the “Small Business AI Innovation and Commercialization Institutes” are.

The EO also instructs SBA to encourage small businesses to use capital-access programs for eligible AI-related purposes and eligible investment funds with AI-related expertise to apply for an SBIC license.

Section 5.2 (iii) (b) deals with issues related to AI and inventorship. It directs the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office to publish guidance for USPTO patent examiners and the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop a training, analysis, and evaluation program to mitigate AI-related IP risks. Other directives in this section involve the Health and Human Services's responsibilities for safely incorporating AI into healthcare and The Department of Energy’s obligation to use AI to mitigate the effects of climate change.

In a press release, the Department of Commerce described additional responsibilities it will undertake. NIST will lead technical work on AI safety, developing industry standards for the safe and responsible development of frontier AI models, creating test environments to evaluate these systems, setting standards on privacy, and authenticating when content is AI-generated. And a few days after the White House released the EO, the Department of Commerce announced a new U.S. Artificial Intelligence Safety Institute (USAISI), led by NIST, to guide these efforts.

While the EO directs the Secretary of Energy to coordinate with the Secretary of NSF to establish a pilot program to train 500 new researchers by 2025 capable of meeting the rising demand for AI talent, it also contains directives for easing visa policies that could have a “massive” impact on the availability of tech workers by FY 2024, according to Divyansh Kaushik, associate director for emerging technologies and national security at the Federation of American Scientists.

The directives for promoting opportunities for changes to visa regulations are included in section 5 of the EO, titled “Promoting Innovation and Competition.” Section 5.1 focuses on attracting AI talent to the US and instructs the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security to “streamline processing times of visa petitions and applications, including by ensuring timely availability of visa appointments, for noncitizens who seek to travel to the United States to work on, study, or conduct research in AI or other critical and emerging technologies; and facilitate continued availability of visa appointments in sufficient volume for applicants with expertise in AI or other critical and emerging technologies.”

In all, the EO pinpoints six regulatory areas to be modified. “Each policy change carries the potential to advance America’s ability to draw in international experts that hugely contribute to our innovation-driven economy,” Kaushik wrote in the paper “Unlocking American Competitiveness: Understanding The Reshaped Visa Policies Under The AI Executive Order,” which details the potential impacts of changes in each of these regulations.

artificial intelligence, research, innovation, dept of commerce, semiconductors