The Trump administration will be making a push in 2019 to overhaul legislation that today limits the rate at which technology research funded by the U.S. government is shared with private sector.
Speaking today at a 2018 National Competitiveness Forum in Washington, D.C., Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce for the U.S., told conference attendees that the U.S. needs to improve the return on investment in research funded by the Federal government by making it easier for the researchers that participate in those projects to launch startup companies or go to work for a company that will take those innovations to market.
Ross says that compared to research and development initiatives led by universities, the Trump administration estimates the research and development projects funded by the Federal government are half as efficient in terms of delivering a return on investment (ROI) that benefits the U.S. economy.
Legislation that will be put forward in 2019 seeks to close that gap by making it simpler to transfer research funded by the Federal government to the private sector. Overall, Ross says, the U.S. government spends $150 billion a year funding research and development across agencies such as the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy.
Those investments are part of a larger national security strategy that focuses on strengthening the U.S. economy.
“Economic security defines national security,” says Ross. “Technology now defines economic security.”
Those efforts will not just be applied to driving IT innovations, but also new industries that will, for example, research and manufacture products in space, says Ross. The U.S. government estimates the space industry could become a $1 trillion industry on a current base of $350 billion, says Ross.
Ross says the administration is also highly committed to protection for the intellectual property being created by universities, companies and the Federal government. Ross specifically called out China as a threat to the U.S. because China has made theft of intellectual property an institutionalized part of its economic strategy.
Unlike China, Ross notes that the U.S. cannot dictate industrial policy. But Ross made it abundantly clear today that the administration views all the laboratories that the U.S. government funds as undervalued assets that need to be more aggressively exploited in the years ahead.