DC Dispatch

T2 Touchpoint — March 6, 2019

Published biweekly as part of the FLC’s DC Perspective news content, T2 Touchpoint gathers updates from inside and around the technology transfer (T2) community. News is collected from agency publications, news sites, and DC-central organizations, with original sources, contacts, and links provided in addition to our streamlined synopses. For more information and Touchpoint-related inquiries, please contact dcnews@federallabs.org.

Budget Bulletin

New NSF Report Shows Upward Rise in U.S. R&D Expenditures

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) released its latest report on American research and development (R&D) spending. In 2017, we reported that spending in the previous year had an estimated total of $520 billion. The latest report, which confirmed the earlier figure, estimates a 5-percent increase to $542.2 billion. Judging by our ongoing coverage of White House initiatives to increase U.S. R&D dominance, this number will only increase in subsequent fiscal years, particularly in the federal line item.

The trend for federal spending isn’t a straight increase, given the recession America experienced in the mid- to late-2000s. Adjusted for inflation, the government invested the most ($127 billion) into R&D activities in 2010. This figure has since fluctuated slightly in both directions, but numbers seem to be trending upward between 2016 and 2017, resulting in an estimated $1 billion increase in overall funding. In 2017, most R&D spending was focused in the private sector, with $23 billion more dollars devoted to non-federal business.

The full NCSES brief can be read here.

Research Finds R&D Funding at American Universities Lags Behind on the International Front

Whispers of continued Chinese dominance of artificial intelligence (AI) have continued. According to a recent report by the World Intellectual Property Organization, 17 of the leading universities for AI R&D are in China. Although American lawmakers have taken strides to combat Chinese tech theft or encroachment on U.S. universities, the report continues a trend in our international coverage.

The T2 nonprofit Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) commented on this trend as stagnation in federal grant programs to bolster R&D—in AI or otherwise—in universities. AUTM head Stephen Susalka asserted that federal dollars haven’t “changed substantially,” leveling out at $40 billion forwarded to universities in fiscal year (FY) 2017. When compared to the $75 billion universities spend to advance their own research centers, the disparity between federal and private investment is clear. (This may be because of a 1980 law that allows universities to keep U.S. patents developed with government research dollars, which reduces the lab-to-market transition.)

An even more apparent difference between the U.S. and China is in which federal agencies fund R&D grants. More than half of R&D dollars comes from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), while 13 percent of university funding for IT projects comes from the Pentagon. By boosting federal IT investment in universities and revamping legislation that increased lab-to-market barriers, the leader of the technological conversation might return stateside.

Policy Pulse

Upcoming American S&T Leadership Hearing to Feature Current and Former NIST Advisers

The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will be holding a hearing concerning maintaining American leadership in science and technology (S&T) today. The committee will feature Patrick Gallagher, who led the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) during the Obama administration, and Mehmood Khan, who currently serves on NIST’s advisory board.

NIST released its draft green paper on its Return on Investment (ROI) Initiative, which has since passed the first round of comments. To spearhead American S&T leadership, the paper—and comments from AUTM—suggests streamlining and homogenizing the waiver and licensing processes for U.S. manufacturers to engage in tech transfer activities.

An archived webcast of the hearing will be available here.

Agency Activities

IDEA Act Moves Toward June Deadline

In December, President Trump signed the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA). The approved version of the Act, which heavily focuses on improving federal agency websites and the delivery of other public-facing digital services, set a 180-day deadline for finalizing the modernization initiatives. That gives IDEA-specific efforts until June 18; however, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) needs to release policy documents to guide these developments. (The government shutdown further complicates this timeline.) Yet California representative and IDEA Act cosponsor Ro Khanna confirms this deadline is a strict one.

According to the OMB, working sessions have gathered agency chief information officers (CIOs) and other stakeholders to begin implementation of these digital experience improvements. The sessions have focused on a widespread transition to paperless documents and electronic signatures, but others have suggested a holistic reframing of digital processes that begin digital—and thus are future-proof. According to federal CIO Suzette Kent, “American citizens have digital experiences every single day across every industry. That’s the foundation of what they expect…those expectations are what we want to deliver on. We have that same mandate to ensure government services are on the same path."

DARPA Focuses on T2 Programs

Following the recent call to reduce the stress placed on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop next-generation technology, the agency met to redefine its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. DARPA is setting its sights on the private sector, with companies to be tapped to advance third-wave AI, among other “cutting-edge national security research efforts.” DARPA will be focusing on the following ten leading-edge technology sectors between now and next February: AI; autonomy (machine learning); communications; cybersecurity; lasers; microelectronics; quantum information science; space; and nuclear modernization.

More information on the DARPA T2 accelerator program can be found here.

DC Dispatch