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SSTI Digest

Alejandra Y. Castillo to deliver SSTI conference keynote

SSTI releases new data tool that summarizes investment activity by state and tech area

SSTI has released a new data tool that defines investment activity, one indicator of the vibrancy of a region’s innovation economy, in each of 18 technology areas. Comprising two interactive visuals and a downloadable data file, this tool includes the number of investment-backed companies, investment deals, and amount of capital invested by state, year (2013-June 2023), and investment stage (e.g., seed, angel, venture) for technology verticals that were selected to align with many of the key technology areas defined in the CHIPS and Science Act and included in the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) Tech Hubs program.

Useful Stats: US leads the world in GDP, falls behind in R&D intensity

With a GDP of over $23 trillion in 2021, the United States has the world's largest economy, according to the latest available data from the World Bank. Yet, the U.S. falls behind such countries as Israel and Korea when it comes to how much is spent on research and development (R&D) in proportion to GDP. For example, Israel and Korea spend 5.56% and 4.93% of their GDP on R&D compared to the U.S.’ 3.46%.

China biting at US heels in R&D spending

A report from ITIF warns that China is catching up with the U.S. in private R&D funding. If this trend continues, China could surpass the U.S. in innovation in nine critical advanced technology sectors: aerospace and defense, electronic and electrical equipment, general industrials, industrial engineering, pharmaceutical and biotechnology, software and computer services, technology and hardware equipment, alternative energy, and automobiles and parts.

It’s time to compensate 1890 universities for decades of unfair funding

In 1862, during the Civil War, Congress passed the Land-Grant Agricultural and Mechanical College Act of 1862 (a.k.a. the Morrill Act of 1862). This legislation extended educational opportunities for many White working-class Americans. But it did little to extend education to Black people. The Morrill Act of 1890 passed 28 years later created new land grant institutions to address the issue of Black peoples’ access to higher education. But racial inequities between the two land-grant systems have persisted into the present day. And as noted in The Century Foundation’s (TCF’s) paper, “Nourishing the Nation While Starving; The Underfunding of Black Land-Grant Colleges and Universities,” even though the 1890 universities have many proud accomplishments, the cumulative damage from unequal treatment between the 1862 and 1890 universities is significant.

AI giants pledge to ensure the technology’s safety, security, and trustworthiness

Representatives from leading AI companies (Amazon, Anthropic, Google, Inflection, Meta, Microsoft and OpenAI) gathered at the White House on July 21 for the announcement of their voluntary commitment to “help move toward safe, secure, and transparent development of AI technology.” According to a White House statement, the companies have made commitments to ensuring products are safe before introducing them to the public, building systems that put security first, and earn the public’s trust.

New SBIC rules facilitate early-stage investment

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is implementing a final rule, effective Aug. 17, that adds a category of Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) that will make the program a better-fit for early-stage investment strategies. The most significant change in this direction is the creation of an accrual funding mechanism that enables licensed SBICs to receive a loan from SBA that is repaid only upon distribution events or at the end of a 10-year term. Additional changes include allowing fund investment strategies through a reinvestor SBIC license, modifying license fees, clarifying elements of nonprofit participation, and attempting to reduce program paperwork.

White House releases action plan for strengthening the U.S. bioworkforce

The White House has released a new report, Building the bioworkforce of the future: Expanding equitable pathways into biotechnology and biomanufacturing jobs. The five core recommendations in the report are intended to help propel continued investment in the bioeconomy and maintain the U.S.’ leadership in this sector. The report follows an Executive Order President Biden signed in September 2022.

NSF and EDA sign MOU to coordinate work on regional innovation programs

The "CHIPS and Science Act" authorizes both the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) to implement programs to enable regional technology development and economic and job growth through NSF Regional Innovation Engines (NSF Engines) and EDA Regional Technology and Innovation Hub (Tech Hubs) programs. To officially enable cooperation between the two agencies as they pursue these similar goals, NSF and EDA signed a memorandum of understanding MOU. The MOU allows for coordinating specific projects, programs, and facilities. The coordination may include research and education activities, facilities, centers, data infrastructure and outreach.

GAO examines flexibilities intended to speed up DOD R&D

The Department of Defense (DOD) receives about $95 billion annually to support research and development efforts. But some members of Congress feared that requesting and allocating those funds took too long. It usually takes two years, which hinders response to evolving threats. The Senate addressed this issue in the Senate Report on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022, calling for the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review DOD research funding flexibilities. GAO reports that service officials responsible for R&D efforts were not familiar with all of the flexibilities available to them.

There is a childcare crisis. SSTI members are working on solutions.

Every year, inadequate childcare causes the US economy to take a $122B hit, according to a study by an economist at the University of Pennsylvania. This economic hit affects everyone—workers, businesses, and taxpayers. Parents lose income when they miss work to take care of a child. Businesses suffer from lower productivity when employees are absent. Taxpayers end up paying more when parents leave the workforce and generate fewer tax revenues. Future economic growth slows when tax revenues decline.

NIH puts the kibosh on generative AI

Last month, NIH came out with a policy statement that prohibits using generative AI to analyze or critique NIH grant applications and contract proposals. Specifically, as written in NIH Notice NOT-OD-23-149, “NIH prohibits NIH scientific peer reviewers from using natural language processors, large language models, or other generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies for analyzing and formulating peer review critiques for grant applications and R&D contract proposals.” The problem with using generative AI in peer review is that it compromises confidentiality. As expressed in the notice, once information is loaded onto a generative AI platform, “AI tools have no guarantee of where data are being sent, saved, viewed, or used in the future, and thus NIH is revising its Confidentiality Agreements for Peer Reviewers to clarify that reviewers are prohibited from using AI tools in analyzing and critiquing NIH grant applications and R&D contract proposals. Such actions violate NIH’s peer review confidentiality requirements.”

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