Basic Research & Technology Transfer
Basic research conducted in federal laboratories and research institutions provides the underlying foundation for the innovation economy in the U.S.
Why it matters: Federal basic research investment has led to groundbreaking technologies such as the creation of the Internet and the development of lifesaving medical treatments, strengthened national security, and advanced energy technologies. These discoveries have resulted in, and continue to incite, American innovation, job creation, and economic growth.
The landscape: Recent trends have demonstrated a decrease in overall R&D funding and a decrease in the R&D funds allocated toward basic research. Studies by the National Science Foundation show the percentage of basic research activity funded by federal agencies dipped to forty-four percent in 2015, compared to seventy percent throughout the 1960s and ‘70s, standing in stark contrast to countries such as China which have increased R&D investments approximately 30-fold from 1991 to 2016.
What can be done: We can efficiently use today’s basic research dollars by improving the transition of technology from government labs to commercial activity.
- Commercialization programs such as the Small Business Administration’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs and the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps) help to bridge the commercialization divide for small businesses.
- SBIR and STTR funding have contributed to major technological breakthroughs developed by venture-backed companies, including advancements in identity theft, regenerative wound healing therapies, and biometric sensor technology.
- I-Corps provides entrepreneurial training to scientists and engineers preparing to take federally-funded projects into commercialization, has helped accelerate advanced technologies such as facial recognition tools to battle human trafficking.
- Increased investment in federal basic research programs and greater efficiencies in the processes of commercializing new technologies.
- A federal commitment to sustained annual growth in funding basic research activity of at least four percent to fuel new technological breakthroughs and pave the way for venture-backed startups to grow into successful companies and advance American economic competitiveness.
- Improve the translation of federally-funded research into commercialized technology and new companies. The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Tech Transfer (STTR) programs are two commercialization programs that are vital tools in ensuring basic research dollars have an impact. The 117th Congress passed the CHIPS and Science Act to provide a renewed commitment to federal basic research funding and technology commercialization efforts focused on enhancing the U.S. innovation capacity. NVCA supported this bill from its inception as the Endless Frontier Act.
- Bills to advance entrepreneurship, including the Transfer Act, which would dedicate funding for proof of concept technologies, and the Innovators to Entrepreneurs Act, which further supports the I-Corps program by expanding the current curriculum and the eligible pool of applicants.
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