(TheHill) The incoming Biden administration has proposed a $300 billion investment in R&D over four years. This has the potential to be transformative.
In each deep tech area (e.g., quantum, artificial intelligence, telecommunications, semiconductors, biotech), the United States needs a strategy that produces durable impact to our economy, tackling both the engineering challenges today and investing in R&D that will fuel sustained impact tomorrow.
The US must orchestrate its execution across federal R&D agencies, economic development efforts, acquisition programs, and regulatory agencies. This whole-of-government approach must then extend into a whole-of-nation approach through public-private partnerships with industry and academia, which are critical allies in this endeavor.
The United States risks falling behind in critical technology areas, leaving our supply chains vulnerable and our national security in jeopardy. The country is failing to invest in critically important industries and letting our great power competition adversaries like China take the lead.
How could the most innovative country in the world let that happen?
Basically, our current investment models don’t value “deep tech” — long-term, slow-return industrial innovation.
Much of America’s technical advancement in the 20th century came from industrial labs like General Electric, Bell Labs, and DuPont. Their focus on research and development (R&D) drove numerous innovations.
As we moved into the information age, America changed how it innovates. We pivoted basic research into our universities, while redefining applied R&D and tech commercialization through the lens of Silicon Valley, where being successful typically follows the venture capital model: “Out of every ten early-stage investments, two will create all the returns and the rest will underperform.”
The venture capital model works well for software and services, but it doesn’t work for deep tech, which requires different risk-reward economics.
In each deep tech area (e.g., quantum, artificial intelligence, telecommunications, semiconductors, biotech), we need a strategy that produces durable impact to our economy, tackling both the engineering challenges today and investing in R&D that will fuel sustained impact tomorrow.
We must orchestrate its execution across our federal R&D agencies, economic development efforts, acquisition programs, and regulatory agencies.
The National Quantum Initiative is focused too heavily on basic research and needs to incorporate applied engineering, commercialization, and workforce strategies.
NOTE:Charles Clancy, the author of this article, is senior vice president, general manager of MITRE Labs, and chief futurist. The opinion expressed is the author’s and does not necessarily reflect the views of MITRE.