Innovation & CompetitivenessPublic Policy Issues

Innovation, a Badly Needed Prescription for Our Future

By Will Robinson

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 to email your senators, and to 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.


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.


Guest Contributor

IEEE-USA is an organizational unit of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE), created in 1973 to support the career and public policy interests of IEEE’s U.S. members. IEEE-USA is primarily supported by an annual assessment paid by U.S. IEEE Members.

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  1. It is interesting, and indeed incredibly short sighted, that after Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and his cronies passed the AIA, the single most damaging legislation in the history of US innovation, they are now trying to undo the damage they caused without admitting that the problem is in large measure one of their own making. “The America Invents Act (AIA) was the single worst disaster in the 226 year history of the U.S. patent system. The AIA did very real damage – enough to put many inventors out of business and discourage many others.” This damage directly impacts small innovators, entrepreneurs and the businesses which benefit from that innovation. Small businesses in turn employ nearly half of the workforce, and account for more than 60% of the private sector’s net new jobs in the US.

    The Master Innovator, shown above, is but one example of how one person with solid patent protection of their innovation, can create entirely new industries that benefit US workers and the US economy. Just think of what would have happened to all of that if the protection afforded by Edison’s patents had been destroyed by Congress. All of those jobs and that economic stimulus would have gone elsewhere.

    A similar loss of innovation, jobs and economic stimulus happened in the 1960s when the US Department of Justice forced US companies to give essentially free patent licenses to foreign competition in order to lower the prices of consumer products by increased competition. The result was the loss of entire industries, including steel, cars, appliances, electronics and other high tech innovation and manufacturing. The prices of consumer products did drop, but in many manufacturing based communities around the US nobody had a job so they could buy them. It was a classic example of the old adage that the worst thing you can hear is “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”.

    Since its passage, the AIA and its Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) has caused a substantial loss of innovation which the above “new moon shot” legislation is intended to fix. If Congress really wants to foster innovation in the US, they can easily do so by restoring innovators’ ability to protect the underlying investment and work which has been guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution for over 200 years. That was before it was destroyed by the AIA. “The PTAB has become a prime example of regulatory overreach by creating unnecessary costs for inventors and companies, and, thus, harming the innovation economy far beyond the harm of the bad patents it was created to remedy.”

    Because of the damage caused by the AIA and its PTAB, that innovation can no longer be protected in the US. Much innovative work and its underlying funding has already left for foreign shores, and the US no longer leads the world in innovation. Congress can throw billions at the problem they caused, and there will be plenty of people who are happy to receive and spend the money, but without the protection of that investment which was formerly provided by the US patent system, that money is just funding unscrupulous copyists around the world who will enjoy the fruits of that investment and labor without having to spend a dime or do any of the work. If Congress really wants to restore the US to the world leader in innovation, the first thing they should do is repeal the AIA! It doesn’t cost the taxpayers anything and will allow US innovators to protect their innovations which in turn will help keep the benefits in the US.

  2. Thanks for your comments. Hopefully you have contacted your elected representatives and expressed your concerns in this area.

    IEEE-USA is a strong advocate for patent reform. Our membership includes many inventors and researchers that are involved in scientific discovery and cutting-edge technology development. We have an Intellectual Property Committee that provides policy recommendations to all branches of the federal government, to include a recent amicus brief to the Supreme Court. We recently endorsed legislation introduced by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), called, “Restoring America’s Leadership in Innovation Act” (RALIA). RALIA reaffirms and strengthens private property interests in patents and calls for the repeal of several measures from the America Invents Act, to include the elimination of PTAB, and restoration of the one year grace period.

    We also have several position statements on intellectual property that are used to advocate our position with Congress. These position statements are available for your review on the IEEE-USA website.

    Will Robinson

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