WSJ – The Country’s R&D Agenda Could Use a Shake-Up

  • U.S. federal research is split among dozens of agencies and departments, a hodgepodge that scientists say has some advantages because it promotes competition
  • The U.S. is spending roughly $1 billion to $2 billion annually, much of it federal funds, to build the first “exascale” supercomputer—capable of a quintillion calculations a second, which is at least 100 times faster than today’s champion
    • China is spending about the same but the U.S. program focuses more on software than China’s does and should produce more useful results
  • U.S. is also boosting spending in semiconductor research
  • Trump administration lacks a plan to spur innovation and rank the importance of different technologies
    • Beijing believes in state-driven research
    • U.S. depends on the private sector, along with government-funded basic research
      • U.S. runs the risk of falling behind without more coordinated effort
    •  administration proposed a 17% cut in basic research in the 2018 fiscal year and an 8% cut in the current 2019 fiscal-year budget
    •  Commerce Department’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which spends about $125 million a year to help smaller companies learn about robotics and 3-D manufacturing
  • Overall federal R&D spending, at 0.7% of gross domestic product, is roughly half what it was in the mid-1980s
  • Top Chinese supercomputer scientists rely on Chinese-produced computer chips, not U.S. ones
  • Office of Science and Technology Policy has advanced some initiatives to boost U.S. technology. 

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