The National Science Foundation has launched a new effort aimed at building capacity and infrastructure for translational research at U.S. Institutions of Higher Education. The Accelerating Research Translation (ART) spans all directorates and disciplines supported by the Foundation and is targeted at universities that do not have a high level of translational research as measured by indicators such as patents, invention disclosures, licenses and other metrics.
According to the NSF, the program seeks to: 1) strengthen the institutional infrastructure to support and grow research translation, 2) fund educational/training opportunities for graduate students to become entrepreneurs and/or seek use-inspired and/or translational research-oriented careers and, 3) support “translational research activities that offer immediate opportunities for transition to practice to create economic and/or societal impact.”
It is the intention of NSF that successful awardees will form a nationwide network of ‘ART Ambassadors’ who will champion the cause of translational research both within their own school and among their peers at other academic institutions. Individuals serving as ART Ambassadors can include graduate students, senior administrators as well as university staff within tech transfer offices.
The base budget for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) rose 16% for fiscal year 2023 to $1.24 billion not including earmarked or one-time supplemental spending. NIST has been a priority for the Biden Administration which had proposed a very large increase (38%) aimed at bolstering the American manufacturing sector.
Separately, the agency is also administering billions of dollars the CHIPS and Science Act has provided for semiconductor manufacturing and R&D initiatives.
The CHIPS and Science Act created several new initiatives within the Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships that the National Science Foundation created early this year. This includes establishing priority technology focus areas and authorizing new programs supporting technology commercialization, regional innovation, and workforce development.
The U.S. National Science Foundation launched a new $30 million workforce development program, Experiential Learning for Emerging and Novel Technologies, or ExLENT. The program will expand practical learning opportunities for individuals interested in entering or gaining more experience in emerging and novel technology areas such as advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, quantum information science, and semiconductors and microelectronics. With awards of up to $1 million over three years, the program will promote partnerships between organizations in emerging technology fields and those with expertise in workforce development.
Using a cohort model and emphasizing the importance of mentorship, the ExLENT program will connect interested companies, governments and nonprofits with current and potential learners in science, technology, engineering and mathematics who are seeking paid opportunities to explore career paths and develop skills in emerging technology areas.
ExLENT offers experiential learning opportunities for people with varying STEM experience levels to advance in new and emerging technology fields. They include opportunities for current STEM professionals to pivot into new careers in emerging technology fields, opportunities for those with limited STEM training to gain deeper knowledge and experience, and for participants with no prior STEM experience to build interest, motivation, and knowledge in an emerging technology field and inspire them to further explore pathways to potential careers in these areas.
The U.S. National Science Board has released their biennial report on the U.S. science and engineering (S&E) enterprise. The NSB Science & Engineering Indicators study is a key source of data on the status of U.S. R&D and STEM workforce investments and activities. The report analyzes the overall levels of investment in R&D at all levels (basic/applied/development) by all performers (academic/industry/non-profit/government) and source of funds (government/private/non-profit). It also compares and contrasts the performance of the U.S. with other countries.
Key findings include:
Global research and development (R&D) performance is concentrated in a few countries, with the United States performing the most (27% of global R&D in 2019), followed by China (22%), Japan (7%), Germany (6%), and South Korea (4%).
The global concentration of R&D performance continues to shift from the United States and Europe to countries in East-Southeast Asia and South Asia.
Many middle-income countries, such as China and India, are increasing science and engineering (S&E) publication, patenting activities, and knowledge- and technology-intensive (KTI) output, which has distributed science and technology (S&T) capabilities throughout the globe.
The proportion of total U.S. R&D funded by the U.S. government decreased from 31% in 2010 to an estimated 21% in 2019, even as the absolute amount of federally funded R&D increased. This translates into the weakening of the U.S. system of basic research which has long been a pillar of a strong U.S. S&E enterprise.
The U.S. science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) labor force represents 23% of the total U.S. labor force, involves workers at all educational levels, and includes higher proportions of men, Whites, Asians, and foreign-born workers than the proportions of these groups in the U.S. population.
Blacks and Hispanics are underrepresented among students earning S&E degrees and among STEM workers with at least a bachelor’s degree. However, their share of STEM workers without a bachelor’s degree is similar to their share in the U.S. workforce.
Disparities in K–12 STEM education and student performance across demographic and socioeconomic categories and geographic regions are challenges to the U.S. STEM education system, as is the affordability of higher education.
The United States awards the most S&E doctorates worldwide. Among S&E doctorate students in the United States, a large proportion are international and over half of the doctorate degrees in the fields of economics, computer sciences, engineering, and mathematics and statistics are awarded to international students.
This year the report marked significant changes to how it analyzes the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce. It combines two major component into total STEM workforce: (1) S&E and S&E-related workers with a bachelor’s or higher degree and (2) skilled technical workers (STW) without such a degree.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) unveiled the 2021 National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) Strategic Plan on October 9, 2021. The strategy seeks to ensure that the United States continues to lead the world in nanoscience discoveries as well as in translating and manufacturing its products to benefit all of America. In addition to identifying priorities for the NNI to best support the research community in the United States, the plan prioritizes efforts to expand sustainable infrastructure and advance equity in the nanotechnology workforce.
The plan emphasizes the need for specialized nanotechnology research tools and facilities, emphasizing the need to expand and refresh the research infrastructure, and provide access to these facilities for research and industry. The plan also links investments in research infrastructure to the training of the future nanotechnology workforce and continued growth in high-paying jobs.
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.