Keeping our Edge. Click to keep reading…

Keeping our Edge. Click to keep reading…

The U.S. has enjoyed a long history of innovation that has fueled the rational exuberance of the economy. Three important innovations fueled our R&D dominance: the Internet, the microchip and the computer. Those concepts were developed through a triad – the alliance of business, government and  academia. The triad was born around 1931, when an MIT professor, Vannevar Bush published a report commissioned by President Roosevelt that concluded “basic research leads to new knowledge. It provides scientific capital. It creates the fund from which the practical applications of knowledge must be drawn.” Many in the country’s brain trust are concerned that the U.S. may yield its top spot as a pioneer in science and technology. A 2017 report from the Atlantic Council warned that “federal R&D spending has shrunk significantly over the last few decades; once the world leader, the United States now ranks 12th in government-funded R&D spending as a percentage of GDP.” Spending on R&D spending fell from 1.2% of GDP in 1976 to less than 0.8% in 2016. All R&D is funded by just 30% federal funds, and that has created a reduction in basic scientific research at university research labs.

President Trump’s latest budget proposes an additional 15% cut in funding for university research. The consequences related to economic security may be compounded by China’s ambition to transform itself into a “nation of innovation”. In 2016, China released 15 “Science and Technology Innovation 2030 Megaprojects” along with 2017’s additional project, “Artificial Intelligence 2.0,” China aims to become the world leader in AI by 2030. China’s equivalent of Google, Baidu, is at the forefront of AI, and boasts the most powerful and accurate speech recognition program in the world.

Without a reversal in policies that are curtailing funding in R&D, the U.S. may be limiting innovation breakthroughs that have been the foundation of our economic stability.–Isaacson, W. (14 January 2019). How America loses its edge. Time Magazine, p. 17-19. 

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