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Bipartisan legislation would provide $110 billion for R&D, regional innovation

May 28, 2020

A bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators have introduced bills that would make a five-year commitment to increase America’s investment in R&D by $100 billion, while also investing $10 billion in regional technology hubs. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Todd Young (R-IN) and Representatives Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Mike Gallagher (R-WI) introduced the Endless Frontiers Act, which articulates both investments.

The R&D funding would be housed under a new Directorate for Technology within the National Science Foundation. This directorate would have “DARPA-like authorities” to advance research and applications within 10 technology areas, including artificial intelligence, quantum computing, advanced manufacturing, biotechnology, and materials science. Beyond funding R&D, activities authorized to the directorate include funding new scholarships and training programs, developing test facilities, and coordinating with regional innovation ecosystems.

The section on regional technology hubs would authorize the Department of Commerce, working through both the Economic Development Administration and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, to fund 10-15 consortia to advance regional innovation economies related to the key technologies. These consortia would be required to include an economic development organization that primarily focuses on science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. Activities for the hubs would include developing workforce training initiatives, supporting domestic supply chains, facilitating new investment and loan funds, and advancing technology commercialization.

In statements announcing the Endless Frontiers Act, the legislators pointed to America’s challenges in facing the COVID-19 pandemic and the country losing some of its technological lead over China as reasons to make these investments. This positioning suggests the bill could be part of an economic recovery and resilience package that Congress is expected to consider this summer.

policy, legislation, r&d, nsf, eda, nist