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Bipartisan Senate bill aims to invest $100 billion in technology R&D

Its creators say the pandemic ‘magnified weakness’ from underinvestment.

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A group of bipartisan, bicameral politicians have drafted a bill that would “dramatically” increase investment in tech research and development. The Endless Frontiers Act would commit $100 billion over five years toward research in artificial intelligence, high-performance computing, robotics, automation and more. Another $10 billion would go towards creating regional technology hubs across the US.

Senate Democractic Leader Chuck Schumer, Senator Todd Young and Congressmen Ro Khanna and Mike Gallagher unveiled the legislation today. They say it’s partly in response to the coronavirus, which they claim “magnified weakness from decades of US underinvestment in scientific research,” and competition from countries like China.

“The coronavirus pandemic has shown the science and technology gap between the United States and the rest of the world is closing fast and that threatens our long-term health, economic competitiveness, and national security,” Senator Schumer said in a statement. “America cannot afford to continue our decades-long underinvestment and expect to lead the world in advanced scientific and technological research.”

Under the bill, the National Science Foundation (NSF) would be renamed the National Science and Technology Foundation (NSTF) and a new deputy director would oversee the funding. The investment might be used to increase research spending at universities, create new scholarships, fellowships and training programs, develop fabrication facilities, coordinate with state and local economic development stakeholders and more.

Years ago, the Obama administration pushed for increased spending for AI research. While President Trump signed an executive order “prioritizing” AI and the White House launched, there hasn’t been a major investment like the one proposed by this bill. This isn’t guaranteed to pass in a Republican-led Senate, but it could be a tremendous help to R&D if it does.

As proponents of similar measures have said in the past, the Endless Frontiers Act could also create much-needed jobs.

“Particularly at a moment when so many folks are in need of stable employment, Congress should do everything in our power to develop sustainable industries across our country that will be here to stay, or else risk losing our competitive edge to China,” Rep. Khanna said.