With China’s Rise, the U.S. is No Longer the Uncontested R&D Leader



For decades the United States has been the clear global leader in research and development.  A new report by the the National Science Board indicates that this is no longer the case.  The report, the State of U.S. Science and Engineering 2020  is mandated by Congress and provides information on the state of the U.S. science and engineering (S&E) enterprise over time and within a global context.  The major takeaway from the report has been the sharp rise of R&D investments in China relative to a slower or even declining R&D levels in the United States depending on the category.  For example, the share of U.S. R&D funded by the federal government has declined.  This means a relative drop in critical early-stage basic research, particularly at colleges and universities and government laboratories.

According to the report, global research and development expenditures have more than tripled since 2000, growing from $722 billion in 2000 to $2.2 trillion in 2017, fueled largely by growth in China. The U.S. and China together accounted for nearly half of all research and development spending — 25 and 23 percent, respectively — in 2017.

In the U.S., federal spending for research and development has increased since 2000, but the share of research and development funded by the federal government — as opposed to businesses or other entities — declined, from 25 percent in 2000 to 22 percent in 2017. Among higher education institutions — which perform the largest amount of basic research, of which the federal government is the primary funder — the share of research and development funded by federal sources declined from 57 percent in 2000 to 51 percent in 2017. ​

Webinar: DARPA’s Ocean of Things Program

GUIRR logoDARPA’s Ocean of Things Program
Thursday, January 30, 2020; 1:00-2:00 p.m. ET

The Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable of the National Academy of Sciences will host a webinar to discuss DARPA’s Ocean of Things program, which seeks to enable persistent maritime situational awareness over large ocean areas by deploying thousands of small, low-cost floats that could form a distributed sensor network. Each smart float would contain a suite of commercially available sensors to collect environmental data, such as ocean temperature, sea state, and location- as well as activity data about commercial vessels, aircraft, and even maritime mammals moving through the area. The floats would transmit data periodically via satellite to a cloud network for storage and real-time analysis.

The discussion will be led by John Waterston, program manager for the Ocean of Things program about the future of cost-effective, real-time monitoring of maritime activity.

There is no cost to this webinar, but registration is required.  Register here:  DARPA’s Ocean of Things Program

Legacy Costs Threaten Cities and Towns in U.S. Manufacturing Regions

Here at Arch Street we dislike the term “Rust Belt”.

View from Arch Street

Rust Belt MapHere at Arch Street we dislike the term “Rust Belt”.

But alas, old terms die hard, just as do preconceptions of what is happening in this region spanning the Northeast and Midwest. Having been engaged in tech-based economic development in the Northeast for over 30 years, we know that this term does not adequately describe the changes occurring in places like Utica, New York or Erie, Pennsylvania.  Regardless, small cities and towns especially are under severe threat due to high legacy costs (pensions, infrastructure) and dwindling population and tax bases.  A recent study by the Manhattan Institute is stark in its assessment:

Rust Belt cities’ legacy cost burden will continue to weigh on them just as much as will their legacy of industrial decline.  Costs associated with both bonded debt and retirement-benefit liabilities will reduce scarce funds available for existing services and future improvements. It is doubtful that Rust Belt…

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U.S. GAO Releases Guide for Designing Technology Assessments

GAO TA HandbookThe U.S. Government Accountability Office’s Technology Assessment Design Handbook [PDF] was released in December, 2019.  It identifies tools and approaches to use in the design of robust and rigorous technology assessments (TAs). The handbook underscores the importance of TA design, outlines the process of designing TAs, and describes approaches for mitigating selected TA design and implementation challenges . While the primary audience of this handbook was GAO staff, other organizations engaged or interested in TAs will find portions of this handbook useful.

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Federal Cybersecurity Research Strategic Plan Released

Federal-Cybersecurity-RD-Strategic-Plan-2019-slideThe 2019 Federal Cybersecurity Research and Development Strategic Plan was released by the National Science and Technology Council on December 10, 2019.  The new plan supersedes the 2016 strategic plan and aims to coordinate and guide federally funded R&D in cybersecurity, including development of consensus-based standards and best practices. The 2019 Plan identifies four interrelated defensive capabilities (deter, protect, detect, and respond) and six priority areas for cybersecurity R&D (artificial intelligence, quantum information science, trustworthy distributed digital infrastructure, privacy, secure hardware and software, and education and workforce development) as the focusing structure for Federal cybersecurity R&D activities and investments to benefit the Nation.