Strategy for American Innovation: Catalyze Breakthroughs for National Priorities

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Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik, we had no idea how we would beat them to the moon.  The science wasn’t even there yet.  NASA didn’t exist.  But after investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs. This is our generation’s Sputnik moment.”

- President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, January 25, 2010

In areas of well-defined national importance, public investments can help catalyze advances, leveraging key breakthroughs and U.S. leadership.  The 21st century brings several critical areas – including energy, bio- and nanotechnology, space capabilities, health care, and education – where the demand for breakthroughs is clear.  The Administration’s Strategy for American Innovation will harness public mechanisms to help meet our common goals, sparking commercial innovations and American ingenuity as we seek to meet the grand challenges of the next century and add impressive new chapters to the history of American progress.

Unleash a clean energy revolution

For our national security, economy, and environment, it is crucial to develop clean energy technologies.  President Obama is committed to U.S. leadership in the energy economy of the future.  The President’s strategy will meet our energy goals and put the U.S. at the cutting edge of the renewable energy, advanced battery, alternative fuel, and advanced vehicle industries. 

Double the nation's supply of renewable energy by the end of 2012

The Administration is committed to doubling the supply of renewable energy by the end of 2012.  Federal tax credits and financing support, including the Section 1603 and Section 48C programs, have leveraged the manufacture and deployment of gigawatts of new renewable energy investments in innovative solar, wind, and geothermal energy technologies.  Aided by these incentives, electricity generation from renewables (excluding conventional hydropower) is projected to surpass twice its 2008 level, meeting the Administration’s goal.

Spur innovation through new energy standards

The President has set a national goal of generating 80% of the nation's electricity from clean sources by 2035.  The proposed Clean Energy Standard will mobilize hundreds of billions of dollars in private investment, spur the deployment of clean energy technologies, and create market demand for new innovations.  The Administration is also working to meet the renewable fuel mandate set by Congress, which requires the use of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022.  The EPA finalized a rule to implement the Renewable Fuel Standard on February 3, 2010, and the Growing America’s Fuels strategy focuses on a number of the innovations that will help us achieve that goal.

Create Energy Innovation Hubs

Bringing together scientists and innovative thinkers from different disciplines to form highly-integrated research teams can create research breakthroughs on tough problems.  The Administration established three Energy Innovation Hubs in FY 2010 to tackle challenges in nuclear energy modeling, energy efficiency in buildings, and the generation of fuel from sunlight.  The Administration’s FY 2012 Budget calls for doubling the number of Energy Innovation Hubs, from three to six, to tackle additional energy challenges.

Invest in clean energy solutions

The Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has awarded nearly $400 million to more than 100 research projects that seek fundamental breakthroughs in energy technologies.  The President’s FY 2012 Budget proposes to expand support for ARPA-E. 

Promote energy efficient industries

The Administration is spurring private sector innovation through new fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards, with new efforts to develop standards over the 2017-2025 model years for light vehicles and new standards over medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.  As the single largest energy consumer in the U.S. economy, government procurement provides an additional, important mechanism to catalyze demand for innovative energy technologies. In October 2009, President Obama signed an Executive Order that calls on agencies to cut the federal government's fleet petroleum use by 30% by 2020.

Invest in Advanced Vehicle Technology

The President’s FY 2012 Budget proposes to make the United States the world’s leader in manufacturing and deploying next-generation vehicle technologies, expanding funding for vehicle technologies by almost 90% to nearly $590 million and enhancing existing tax incentives.  Recovery Act and prior year investments are already making progress on advanced technology vehicles through research initiatives like an ARPA-E grant to develop a battery that will go 300 miles on a single charge.  The FY 2012 Budget will significantly broaden R&D investments in technologies like batteries and electric drives – including an over 30% increase in support for vehicle technology R&D and a new Energy Innovation Hub devoted to improving batteries and energy storage for vehicles and beyond.  In addition, the President is proposing to transform the existing $7,500 tax credit for electric vehicles into a rebate that will be available to all consumers immediately at the point of sale.

Accelerate biotechnology, nanotechnology, and advanced manufacturing

The emerging fields of biotechnology and nanotechnology may provide major new platforms for economic growth in the years and decades ahead while providing potentially profound advances in health.  The Administration is committed to nurturing these promising fields.

Complete DNA sequencing for major diseasesand drive sequencing innovations

Administration investments will lend a new level of insight into disease that was previously unattainable, while driving down the cost of DNA sequencing.  As an extraordinary example of the promise afforded by the Recovery Act, the Administration is investing in the sequencing of over 1,800 complete genomes, a more than 50-fold increase over the 34 genomes that have been sequenced to date by non-Recovery Act NIH funding.  This effort has the potential to provide critical insight into major diseases while also driving down sequencing costs.  The Administration, through NIH, is also leading The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), the largest and most comprehensive analysis of the molecular basis of cancer ever undertaken, which may unleash new possibilities for cancer treatment, diagnosis and personalized care. 

Create nanotechnology solutions

The National Nanotechnology Initiative is investing in particularly promising nanotechnology areas.  Advances in nanotechnology can drive economic growth, create quality jobs, and address a broad range of national challenges.  Examples of potential nanotechnology applications include smart anti-cancer therapeutics that target tumors without the devastating side effects of chemotherapy, solar cells as cheap as paint, and the next revolution in computing.  Building on basic science advances, companies are already offering nanotechnology-enabled products with breakthrough capabilities in areas such as disease detection, lighter and stronger materials,and next-generation batteries. 

Launch breakthrough technologies for advanced manufacturing

The Administration is investing in breakthrough research for manufacturing technologies that can provide the foundation for future economic growth and competitiveness.  The FY 2012 Budget increases investments at key science agencies, including the NSF, NIST laboratories, the Department of Energy Office of Science, and DARPA, to support U.S. leadership in developing advanced manufacturing technologies.  The FY 2012 Budget also proposes to initiate the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia program, a public-private partnership that will improve manufacturing R&D investments and accelerate innovations’ time to market.

Box 3: The Growing Fields of Nanotechnology and Personalized Medicine

A nanometer is a billionth of a meter – or one hundred thousand times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.  Nanotechnology promises to transform multiple industries: capturing and storing clean energy, developing next-generation computer chips, allowing early detection of diseases, creating smart anti-cancer therapeutics that deliver drugs only to tumor cells, and enabling all-new approaches to a wide range of manufacturing activities, among many other examples.  While the commercial impact of nanotechnology to date has been limited primarily to nanomaterials applied to a range of consumer goods from healthcare and food products to textiles, automotive composites and industrial coatings, nanotechnology innovation is beginning to accelerate.  The ten-year history of U.S. leadership in fundamental nanotechnology research and development under the National Nanotechnology Initiative has laid the crucial groundwork for developing commercial applications and scaling up production, creating demand for many new nanotechnology and manufacturing jobs in the near-term.

Nanotechnology is being applied in the developing medical engineering and personalized medicine industries.  The practice of tailoring medical treatment to an individual’s unique genetic make-up makes not only treatment, but early detection and prevention, more effective.  It also reduces medical costs in cases where expensive treatments are unnecessary or futile.  Researchers are currently experimenting with nanotechnology to develop drugs capable of targeting a disease without triggering the body’s natural immune response.

Develop breakthrough space capabilities and applications

Space technologies warn us of natural disasters, enable worldwide communications, facilitate global commerce, enhance our global navigation and position location capabilities, and contribute to our national security.  The President is committed to continuing U.S. leadership in this arena by strengthening our space-related science and technology R&D initiatives, enhancing mutually beneficial international cooperation efforts, improving the state of the U.S. space industrial base, and taking steps to enable a robust, innovative, and competitive commercial space sector.

The Administration is dedicated to developing the next generation of space vehicles and innovative uses of the International Space Station (ISS) by working with the private sector to expand American industry’s role.  The Administration is also committed to advancing U.S. capabilities in other space sectors, including a new generation of global positioning satellites and services that allow advanced navigation and timing applications, which can be a platform for further innovation in many sectors, including agriculture, communications, air travel, and highway safety.  The Administration will also continue and improve a broad array of programs of space-based observation, research, and analysis of the Earth’s land, oceans, and atmosphere. 

Drive breakthroughs in health care technology

The inefficiencies in our health care system raise costs and reduce the quality of care.  Information technology has the potential to revolutionize our health care systems, creating technological platforms to reduce costs, reduce errors, and increase the quality of care.  By breaking down barriers between health service providers, health IT can integrate our health markets to attract scalable, competitively tested private sector innovation.

Expand the use of health IT

The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology is promoting health IT adoption through numerous initiatives.  These efforts include programs to accelerate adoption of Electronic Health Records, to develop standards for health information exchange over the Internet, and to develop mobile health technologies.  In addition, the Strategic Health IT Advanced Research Projects (SHARP) Program funds potentially game-changing advances to address well-documented problems that have impeded adoption of health IT.

Enable innovation in medical technologiesand medical care

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is working to accelerate the development of medical device technologies.  In June 2009, the FDA launched a “Transparency Initiative” which will improve the market’s understanding of the approval process and encourage innovation.  In January 2010, the FDA announced the creation of the Council on Medical Device Innovation, designed to encourage innovations that will address unmet public health needs.  The multi-agency council will facilitate medical technology innovations by identifying the most important unmet public health needs, delineating the barriers to the development of technologies to treat these needs, and addressing obstacles to patient access.

Over time, the Affordable Care Act will reduce costs throughout the health care system by reducing waste, limiting overpayments, and improving incentives for physicians, hospitals, and other providers to focus on the quality of care rather than the volume and price of care.  These cost containment strategies will provide strong incentive for process and technology innovations that improve the delivery of health services and lower costs.  Projections by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services find that the law will reduce the annualized growth rate of Medicare spending between 2012 and 2019 by 1.4 percentage points.

Create a quantum leap in educational technologies

To maintain America’s economic competitiveness, we must dramatically improve our education systems in a relatively short period.  This challenge is exacerbated by the resource limitations imposed by the current economic environment and the historically persistent cost increases of the education system.  Innovation must be a core building block of our nation’s drive to implement new education strategies and systems. 

Advance development of educational technologies

There is growing evidence that technology can improve learning outcomes and reduce the time needed for students to gain new skills. With relatively widespread access to broadband, cloud computing, digital devices, and software, the technological conditions are increasingly ripe for the development of advanced educational technologies.  The Administration is working to promote educational technology innovations through the Department of Education’s National Educational Technology Plan, the National Science Foundation’s “Cyberlearning Transforming Education” initiative, and various DARPA, Department of Energy, NOAA, and U.S. Navy programs.To catalyze the development and commercialization of transformative educational technologies, the Administration is supporting the launch of an ARPA-ED in FY 2012, building on successful models used by the DOD and DOE.