On Wednesday, March 17th at Noon, the DC Chapter of the Technology Transfer Society is sponsoring a briefing on the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s efforts to expand Congress’s capabilities in science and technology (S&T) analysis and assessment. Since the demise of the Office of Technology Assessment in the 1990’s, Congress has lacked robust in-house analytical capability to effectively analyze new scientific and technological advances. Rapid developments in S&T are transforming multiple sectors of society. Like all technological change, these developments bring both opportunities and the potential for unintended consequences. The ability of Congress to understand, evaluate, and prepare for such changes is critical for the United States to remain secure, innovative, and globally competitive.
In January 2019, GAO created the Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics (STAA) team to build on and expand its decades-long work providing Congress with S&T analysis. STAA is a large interdisciplinary technical team that advises Congress, generates policy options, and informs legislation on topics in the computational sciences (such as artificial intelligence and advanced data analytics), physical sciences (such as sustainable chemistry and nuclear waste management), life sciences (such as epidemiology of emerging infectious diseases and biosurety of Select Agents), and engineering (such as IoT, 3D printing, and hypersonic systems).
Dr. Tim Persons and Dr. Karen Howard of GAO will discuss STAA’s history, organization, and its technology assessment portfolio.
Recommends an urgent, comprehensive, whole-of-nation action. The result: a 900-page hybrid mixture of national security policy and technology competitiveness recommendations.
The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) issued its final report on Monday, March 1st, 2021 framed by the great power competition between the United States and it’s allies and China. Commissioners called on the United States to drastically reorient government functions including its national security and technology apparatus to meet the coming national security challenges and opportunities of A.I.. The report is broken into two parts: Part I “Defending America in the AI Era,” and Part II “Winning the Technology Competition,” Both parts are interlinked and the commissioners emphasized that the United States stands to lose it’s technical advantage over geopolitical rivals within the next 10 years.
The 900-page report is a hybrid mixture of national security policy and technology competitiveness recommendations. Part I outlines what the United States must do to defend against the spectrum of AI-related threats from state and non-state actors and recommends how the U.S. government can responsibly use AI technologies to protect the American people and our interests. Part II outlines AI’s role in a broader technology competition and addresses critical elements of the competition and recommends actions the government must take to promote AI innovation to improve national competitiveness and protect critical U.S. advantages.
Part I recommendations:
Defend against emerging AI-enabled threats to America’s free and open society.
Prepare for future warfare.
Manage risks associated with AI-enabled and autonomous weapons.
Transform national intelligence.
Scale up digital talent in government
Establish justified confidence in AI systems.
Present a democratic model of AI use for national security.
Part II recommendations:
Organize with a White House–led strategy for technology competition.
Win the global talent competition.
Accelerate AI innovation at home.
Build a resilient domestic base for designing and fabricating microelectronics.
The White House announced a new initiative on securing the supply chain in several critical infrastructure sectors including Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API’s) necessary for medicines to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, rare earth minerals, advanced batteries and, semiconductor chips & advanced packaging.
The executive order will order an immediate 100-day review by federal agencies to assess vulnerabilities in these areas as well as a broader one-year review of supply chain risks across several critical infrastructure sectors including the defense industrial base; the public health and biological preparedness industrial base; the information and communications technology (ICT) industrial base; the energy sector industrial base; the transportation industrial base; and supply chains for agricultural commodities and food production.
A growing problem is a world-wide shortage of key semiconductor chips in several industries including automotive manufacturing. According to areport in the Wall Street Journal, both Ford and General Motors have had to slow or suspend production lines due to chip shortages.
A recentreport from the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) found that innovation is lagging in the U.S. defense industrial base.
According to the NDIA, innovation has declined sharply since 2018 driven by a substantial decline in average annual patent applications. Basic research investments have been stagnant leading to decline of new ideas in the R&D pipeline and an erosion of innovation overall. The report notes;
“The decreasing level of innovation inputs and outputs coming from scientific R&D services industries, typically focused on basic research, is a key driver of the overall decline in the innovation system.”
Vital Signs 2021, The Health and Readiness of the Defense Industrial Base
On the bright side, the U.S. share of global R&D investment ticked up in 2020 but the long term trend remains down. Also DoD innovation funding including research, development, testing, and evaluation (RDT&E) and concurrent SBIR funding have continued to increase since 2018.
On Tuesday, February 16th, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) will be hosting a webinar on opportunities for researchers at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions (MSI’s). The event is an opportunity for researchers from these institutions to learn about funding, partnership, and career opportunities available through AFRL and AFOSR.
How do new energy technologies get from the lab to the market?
That’s a tough question, especially when it comes to federal research at the Department of Energy. Transferring technologies from the DOE to private companies isn’t always easy. Barriers such as the “valley of death”—a gap between the end of public funding and the start of private funding—can stop a transfer.
The DOE has taken steps to address barriers, such as providing training on transferring technologies. But according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), it could better measure the progress of its technology transfer efforts.
GAO recommended developing performance goals and measures for technology transfers.
In a letter to Dr. Lander [PDF] released at the time of his announcement, President-Elect Biden asked five specific questions on how science can and should benefit the nation. Citing the questions posed by Franklin Roosevelt to his science advisor, Vannevar Bush in 1944 that resulted in Bush’s landmark report, Science: The Endless Frontier, Biden asked five specific questions on how science can meet the challenges of the 21st Century. Biden asked that Dr. Lander should call on the entire U.S. science enterprise to make recommendations “on the general strategies, specific actions, and new structures that the federal government should adopt to ensure that our nation can continue to harness the full power of science and technology on behalf of the American people“.
The five specific questions put forward by the President-Elect are:
What can we learn from the pandemic about what is possible—or what ought to be possible—to address the widest range of needs related to our public health?
How can breakthroughs in science and technology create powerful new solutions to address climate change—propelling market-driven change, jump-starting economic growth, improving health, and growing jobs, especially in communities that have been left behind?
How can the United States ensure that it is the world leader in the technologies and industries of the future that will be critical to our economic prosperity and national security, especially in competition with China?
How can we guarantee that the fruits of science and technology are fully shared across America and among all Americans?
How can we ensure the long-term health of science and technology in our nation?
The Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine will host a webinar on the AI Institute for Next Generation Food Systems (AIFS), which aims to meet growing demands in the food supply by increasing efficiencies using AI and bioinformatics across food production and distribution systems. The Institute, launched in October 2020, brings together researchers from six institutions – UC Davis; UC Berkeley; Cornell University; the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; UC Agriculture and Natural Resources; and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. Through the integration of digital and biological technologies, AIFS research will pursue multidisciplinary science, industry engagement, and workforce development to address challenges across the U.S. food system.
Ilias Tagkopoulos, the director of AIFS and professor in the UC Davis Department of Computer Science and Genome Center, will discuss the collaborative mission of the new institute.
We Robot is a top conference at the confluence of robotics law, policy and technology. The next session of We Robot at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, USA, on September 23-25, 2021. The call for scholarly papers, demonstrations and posters is open until February 1, 2021. For more info see: We Robot 2021 Call for Papers, Demos & Posters
A roll-out of a COVID-19 vaccine in the United States is possibly less than a month away. In this light, a report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released in October is especially pertinent. It is a final report of a consensus study recommending a four-phased equitable allocation framework that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and state, tribal, local, and territorial (STLT) authorities should adopt in the development of national and local guidelines for COVID-19 vaccine allocation.