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Confronting the Innovation Race

In a recent speech, U.S. President Joe Biden addressed the U.S.’s decline in global competitiveness due to the reduced investment in research and development, calling on Congress to pass a proposed “Binational Innovation Act.” The President stated: “The United States of America used to be ranked #1 in the world, in investing in the future, now we are ranked #9…. in research and development….” (see also a previous article by this author here).

Both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives passed broad legislation to enhance U.S. competitiveness. The two bills, in the Senate, named the “United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA)” and in the House named “America COMPETES,” are now being negotiated.

A main element of USICA is the creation of a new directorate at the National Science Foundation (NSF), whose objectives are “to strengthen the leadership of the United States in critical technologies, to accelerate the translation and development of scientific advances in key technology focus areas into processes and products in the United States,” and others.

In the meantime, the NSF established the new directorate, as announced on March 16, 2022, by NSF’s Director, Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan. According to the NSF announcement, the new Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP) will “leverage discovery and innovation to rapidly address societal and economic challenges and bring new technologies to market,” TIP initiated its activities, but to fully achieve its goals, the additional funding provided by USICA is essential. This will happen only when the legislation is fully approved by Congress and signed by the President.

The establishment of TIP is considered a very significant move for the NSF, which is traditionally identified with basic research. TIP is focused on advancing “use-inspired and translational research in all fields of science and engineering, giving rise to new industries and engaging all Americans — regardless of background or location — in the pursuit of new, high-wage jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).”

Although TIP seems to be very focused on a U.S. domestic agenda, it  also opens doors to international collaboration, as expressed recently by Senator Todd Young (R-IN), a co-sponsor of USICA, at a discussion organized by the ITIF (Information Technology and Innovation Foundation): “…the Senate bill includes a provision to crowd in talent and treasure from our allied partners as well, so to the extent we can collaborate on some of this research and bring in others as a force multiplier.”

Close to five decades ago, the U.S.-Israel research and development collaboration was gifted by forming the three binational foundations – BSF, BARD and BIRD, which are considered role models of cross-border collaboration. The three Foundations have created efficient and effective new U.S.-Israel collaboration programs. Now, USICA and the formation of NSF’s TIP are a great opportunity to enhance U.S.-Israel collaboration and confront the innovation race.

About the Author
Dr. Eitan Yudilevich completed his doctoral studies in computers and systems engineering in the field of medical imaging in the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He earned his Master's Degree in mathematics at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and his Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in electrical engineering at Haifa's Technion. Dr. Yudilevich assumed the Executive Director position at the BIRD Foundation on January 1, 2006.
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