The nation that wins the global tech race will dominate the 21st century.
This has been true since the 1800s.
Given the rapid pace of innovation and tech’s impact on our economy and defense capabilities in the last decade, there is ample evidence to suggest that the need for investment in tech research and development has never been greater. China has been closing the tech gap in recent years by making bold investments in tech with the intent of overtaking the United States. This is a tech war we cannot afford to lose.
It’s imperative that Congress pass the Endless Frontier Act and authorize the biggest R&D tech investment in the United States since the Apollo years.
Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Santa Clara, made a massive increase in science and technology investment a major part of his platform while campaigning for a seat in Congress in 2016. Now the co-author of the 600-page legislation is on the cusp of pushing through a bipartisan effort that has been years in the making. Khanna and his co-authors, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., and Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., are shepherding the bill through the Senate, which is expected to approve it sometime later this month. That would set up a reconciliation debate between the House and Senate that would determine the bill’s final language.
The ultimate size of the investment is still very much up in the air.
Khanna would like Congress to authorize $100 billion over a five-year period for critical advancements in artificial intelligence, biotechnology, cybersecurity, semiconductors and other cutting-edge technologies.
The Senate is talking of knocking that number down to $50 billion or $75 billion.
They should be reminded of China Premier Li Keqiang’s March announcement that China would increase its research and development spending by an additional 7% per year between 2021 and 2025.
The United States still outspends China in R&D, spending $612 billion on research and development in 2019, compared to China’s $514 billion. But the gap is narrowing. At the turn of the century, China was only spending $33 billion a year on R&D, while the United States was spending nearly 10 times that amount.
The bill would authorize 10 technology hubs throughout the nation designed to help build the infrastructure, manufacturing facilities and workforce needed to help meet the nation’s tech goals. Building tech centers throughout the United States should also create more support for the industry across the country. Tech’s image has taken a beating in recent years — the emergence of the term “Big Tech” is hardly a positive development — and the industry will need all the support it can muster in Congress.
Meanwhile, the benefits to the Bay Area should be obvious.
The investment will make the region’s tech hubs the center of American strategy for decades to come. The R&D funding will spur new startups, attract the next wave of entrepreneurs and engineers to the region and give a significant boost to the area’s universities and labs.
The United States continues to have a crucial tech edge over its competitors, most notably China. The only way we can hope to win the 21st century is to make significant investments in research and development that will spark the next wave of innovation.