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NASA and DoD taking steps to diversify workforce, advance research capacity at HBCU/MSIs

In response to an executive order signed last year by President Biden to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the federal workforce, many federal organizations are evaluating the resources and opportunities available to minority groups. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S.

Useful Stats: SBIR/STTR application success rates decreased from 2019 to 2020 at NASA

Editor's note: SSTI discovered that NASA updated their data which was used in this article after its publication. Specifically, the update included previously omitted 2020 application and awards data for Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, and Nevada; and 2014 data for Iowa. While the changes to the data were minute, we strive to provide the most accurate and reliable data available. As such, the article and the interactive graphic below have been updated to reflect these changes.

NSF, NASA step up minority STEM-focused awards

As the National Science Foundation points out in a recent press release, people of Hispanic descent comprise 16 percent of the U.S. workforce, but only 6 percent of people working in STEM-related occupations.  Other minorities, including African Americans and Native Americans are also underrepresented in the career paths most critical to maintain American preeminence in innovation and science. New funding rounds distributed by three federal initiatives at NSF and NASA intend to help improve the imbalance.

NASA awards $1.4M to help minority-serving colleges develop new STEM courses

NASA has indicated it is facing broad, workforce-related challenges that can have a negative impact on programs over the long run; over half of its workforce is more than 50 years old, for instance. One recent announcement from its Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) may be a small step to help address some of those challenges.

NASA’s new strategic plan reveals return to the moon and development of new tech

The new four-year strategic plan for NASA provides a foundation to return to the moon “for long-term exploration and use” as well as creating a base for “eventual crewed missions to Mars and potentially beyond.”

Senate Appropriations advances FY 2018 spending bills, would fund Regional Innovation at $21 million

Over the past week, the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations has passed bills to fund commerce and science, transportation, energy and water and agriculture. Regional Innovation Strategies would be funded at $21 million, an increase of $4 million over FY 2017. Other innovation proposals received mixed support, as the Senate cut $3.2 billion from commerce, justice and science funding and another $400 million from agriculture.

Highlights from the President's FY 2018 Budget Request: NASA

The Science Mission Directorate within the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) would receive $5.7 billion in the president’s proposed FY 2018 budget, a $53.1 million (0.9 percent) decrease from FY 2017.

Budget deal supports innovation, research

Congress has passed a budget for FY 2017 that largely continues support for federal innovation programs and R&D investments. Among the highlights are $17 million for Regional Innovation Strategies (a $2 million increase over FY 2016), level funding of $130 million for the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership and $5 million for SBA’s clusters program. In reviewing dozens of line items, offices that had received significant cuts in the White House’s skinny budget appear to receive some of the largest funding increases (such as the Appalachian Regional Commission, Community Development Block Grant and ARPA-E). However, with the exception of multi-billion dollar increases for Department of Defense R&D, many increases are rather small in terms of overall dollars. This is, at least in part, a reflection of non-defense spending caps rising by only $40 million for FY 2017, limiting the availability of new funds. In this context, science and innovation gains are particularly impressive, with a five percent overall increase for federal R&D that particularly benefits NASA and NIH.

NASA Launches Space Race Competition, Other Efforts to Commercialize NASA Tech

NASA is accepting applications for the Space Race Competition – a startup accelerator challenge that allows startups to license patented NASA technologies without any up-front costs and no minimum fees for up to three years.

Public-Private Partnerships Redefining U.S. Space Industry

In response to declining appropriations and the termination of the Space Shuttle program, NASA has had to re-orient its approach to commercial partnerships. Over the past decade, NASA has turned to private partnerships to further the agency’s goals of space research and exploration.

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