Something significant happened late last month in Congress and, unless you had your ear to the ground (or if you follow IEEE-USA on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or Facebook), you may have missed it. But, if it moves forward and meets its intended goal, it will have a profound impact on all of us, including those of us with careers in science and engineering.
On 24 May, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.), Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), and Congressman Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Endless Frontier Act. Described by Senator Schumer as ‘a new Moon shot,’ this legislation aims to ensure that the United States maintains its global leadership position in technology and innovation through the 21st century.
If this legislation is successful, how will it affect you? It will affect you in the same way other innovations in science and technology have had a profound impact in the way we live. Innovations, such as the microwave oven, the cellphone, the light bulb, the automobile, and Google have all had a transformational impact on our global society, by improving our standard of living and quality of life. And they were all developed here in this country. As a result, we have benefitted as a country, from the economic prosperity produced by our own innovations.
This legislation recognizes that America’s position as the world’s leader in science and technology since the end of WWII is at risk. Other countries recognize the value of being the global S&T leader, and they would like to knock us out of that leadership position. These countries are investing heavily in fundamental research with the intent of dominating key technology fields of the future. The United States needs a national policy that encourages investment in research, development and innovation. The Endless Frontier Act takes a giant stride in that direction.
The Endless Frontier Act proposes to spend $100 billion over five years to cement American leadership in ten key technology areas of the future:
- Artificial intelligence and machine learning
- High-performance computing, semiconductors and advanced computer hardware
- Quantum computing and information systems
- Robotics, automation, and advanced manufacturing
- Natural or anthropogenic disaster prevention
- Advanced communications technology
- Biotechnology, genomics, and synthetic biology
- Cybersecurity, data storage and data management technologies
- Advanced energy
- Materials science, engineering and exploration relevant to the other key technology focus areas
This legislation proposes updating one of our premier research institutions, the National Science Foundation (NSF), by giving it a new Directorate for Technology. This new Directorate will:
- Strengthen the leadership of the United States in critical technologies through fundamental research in the key technology focus areas
- Enhance the competitiveness of the United States in the key technology focus areas by improving education in the key technology focus areas and attracting more students to those areas
- Foster the economic and societal impact of federally funded research and development through an accelerated translation of fundamental advances in the key technology focus areas
Additionally, the Endless Frontier Act allocates an additional $10 billion that is managed by the Department of Commerce over a five-year period, to establish regional programs consisting of technology hubs distributed across the country. These hubs would augment existing efforts to pair public research with private companies, by partnering with the industrial sector to tap into the talent and potential of our nation to ensure that the United States leads the industries of the future. The bill also increases research spending at our universities in the ten key technology areas, and creates scholarships, fellowships and industry training programs.
This bipartisan legislation is intended to revitalize our nation’s intellectual and manufacturing potential to create, innovate, and empower our global leadership for the future. America’s current struggle with the coronavirus has exposed some serious vulnerabilities that promise to reshape our lives for the 21st century if we don’t do anything. But the COVID-19 crisis has also emboldened our nation’s leadership to propose aggressive solutions by treating scientific and technical research, and innovation as national security priorities.
So, what can you do? The only way this legislation will pass in Congress is through the support of your elected legislators. They need to hear from you as to why you think the Endless Frontier Act is required for maintaining our nation’s global leadership position in innovation, science and technology.
To do this, simply go to www.senate.gov to email your senators, and to www.house.gov to email your congressional representative. Select ‘Science and Technology’ as your issue of concern and tell them why you think this legislation is important. I am including a copy of the email that I sent to my senator and congressman below, as an example of how simple your message can be, while still being effective. Although it is always better to write your own message, if you are pressed for time, please feel free to copy and paste my email.
|SAMPLE MESSAGE |
Dear <Elected Official>,
It is important for our nation to maintain its leadership position in technology and innovation through the end of the 21st century. The recently introduced Endless Frontier Act is bipartisan legislation that provides significant investment in science and engineering research and development, along with aggressive measures to ensure that we treat scientific research and innovation as a national security priority. This legislation is vital for our nation’s economic future. Please provide your support for this important legislation.
Will Robinson, an IEEE Senior Member, is IEEE-USA’s vice president of government relations.
Pictured above: Master innovator, Thomas Edison, whose inventions improved our global standard of living and quality of life. Photo courtesy of the IEEE History Center.