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White House R&D priorities include new focus on regional innovation; other priorities slightly shift

August 24, 2023

A memo sent out last week by the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy outlines this year’s R&D priorities. Federal science agencies will use this memo to design their budget requests for the fiscal year 2025.

For the first time, this annual memo references regional innovation as an important element of R&D. The memo mentions regional innovation under the priority, “Reduce barriers and inequalities.” This priority directs agencies to “undertake R&D and apply technology advances to ameliorate inequities and create opportunity in ways that strengthen our values.” A bullet point in this section advises agencies to “[su]pport regional innovation and workforce development in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine all across America with an emphasis on emerging research institutions and historically underserved communities.”

The following priority, “Bolster the R&D and industrial innovation that will build the Nation’s future economic competitiveness from the bottom up and middle out,” directs agencies to “[p]ursue regional innovation and resilience by invigorating communities and traditional or

emerging industries to spark growth and create good-paying jobs.”

There are many similarities between this year’s memo and those from previous years. There is a continued strong emphasis on strengthening the science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine workforce in an equitable manner; the FY 2025 memo calls for “an emphasis on emerging research institutions and historically underserved communities.” Climate change and national security also remain high priorities.

Artificial intelligence has been a topic of previous memos, but this year there is an emphasis on developing the technology so that it is “trustworthy” and with an acknowledgement that researchers must balance the benefits against the risks. The memo recognizes AI as “one of the most powerful technologies of our time" and that our decisions about developing and using the technology will significantly impact "civil liberties, safety and security, jobs and the economy, and democratic values."

World-leading research, development, and innovation activities to support increased national security are also high-priority items in the memo. Agencies are advised to advance in microelectronics, biotechnology, quantum information science, advanced materials, high-performance computing, and nuclear energy. There is specific advice for agencies to "[m]itigate cybersecurity risks through resilient architectures; building in security by design; strengthening security and resilience for critical infrastructure, and integrating social, behavioral, and economics research.” The memo recommends harnessing “science and technology intelligence and analytic capabilities to assess and benchmark U.S. competitiveness.”

The memo encourages agencies to help emerging research institutions compete for federal funding. It recommends that agencies improve their ability to provide "free, immediate, and equitable public access to federally funded research results” and to “[e]xperiment with funding processes to better achieve agency R&D missions by designing, trying, and assessing new approaches such as streamlining processes to minimize administrative burdens, engaging new R&D performers, exploring new R&D methods, and forging new partnerships."

Last year’s emphasis on pandemic-related R&D is now included as one of several health-related priorities, including reference to the "Cancer Moonshot." Specific mention of "behavioral and mental health for all Americans, including at-risk communities like our veterans, caregivers, medical professionals, youth, and members of the LGBTQI+ community" is new wording for this year's health priorities.


r&d, innovation, artificial intelligence, funding, cancer research