The Endless Frontier is an Act

John M. Dabbs

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The Endless Frontier is all an Act. It is actually a part of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act. Senator Schumer of New York sponsored the Innovation and Competition Act in the Senate.

Tennessee

Local economists and engineers give thier opinions regarding the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, and the Endless Frontier Act within.

About the act

The Endless Frontier Act, looks to bolster American science and technology leadership. The plan is to invest in research and development (R&D), while strengthening regional economic development, manufacturing, and supply chains. The earmarks $120 billion over a five year period at the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Commerce (DOC), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The Endless Frontier Act puts an emphasis on priorities like broader geographic dispersal of R&D funding. They want to encourage more broad participation of people underrepresented in STEM. They also seek to increase collaboration among federal agencies and with non-governmental organizations on innovation.

Inside

Noted provisions in the act include:

  • Technology Directorate: The Endless Frontier Act creates a new Directorate of Technology and Innovation at the NSF to support research and technology development in key technology focus areas, such as artificial intelligence and quantum science, in order to strengthen the global leadership of the United States in innovation. Major activities would include funding research and development at collaborative institutes, supporting academic technology transfer and intellectual property protection, establishing technology testbeds, and awarding scholarships and fellowships to build the relevant workforce. The Directorate authorizes $29 billion over fiscal years 2022 to 2026, including a transfer of $2.9B to existing NSF divisions to support basic research collaboration.
  • NSF Research and Development Programs: The Endless Frontier Act authorizes $52 billion over fiscal years 2022 to 2026 for existing NSF activities, representing a seven percent increase each year. The legislation would also create a Chief Diversity Officer at NSF and increase STEM education to enhance the domestic STEM workforce. The legislation also incorporates a series of new programs, including programs for precision agriculture, rural STEM education, quantum information science, skilled technical education, critical minerals, and bioeconomy R&D.
  • Regional Technology Hubs: The Endless Frontier Act creates a regional technology hub program at DOC to support regional economic development in innovation. Technology hubs would carry out workforce development activities, business and entrepreneur development activities, technology maturation activities, and infrastructure activities related to the technology development. The technology hubs program are authorized at $10 billion over fiscal years 2022 to 2026.
  • Manufacturing: The Endless Frontier Act authorize close to a quadrupling of the DOC Manufacturing Extension Partnership and create a new track within the program for public benefit activities like workforce development and cybersecurity services. The Manufacturing Extension Partnership are funded at $2.4B over fiscal years 2022 to 2026. The substitute also authorizes the Manufacturing USA program, at $1.2B over fiscal years 2022 to 2026, and add workforce and coordination provisions.
  • Supply Chain Resiliency: The Endless Frontier Act establishes a supply chain resiliency program at the Department of Commerce to work with the private sector, for the purpose of identifying and recommending opportunities to mitigate or address supply chain vulnerabilities in the United States and in allied and partner countries. It also amends the recently-enacted CHIPS Act to provide $2 billion in incentives for domestic production of mature semiconductor technologies, such as for the automotive industry.
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“The U.S. Innovation and Competitiveness Act, which includes the NASA authorization bill, is an investment in scientific research and technological innovation that will help ensure the U.S. continues to lead in space and sets us on a path to execute many landings on the Moon in this decade. I applaud the Senate passage of the bill and look forward to working with the House to see it passed into law.” - Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator

Divergent thought

Economist J.R. Godfrey of Bristol, Tennessee, believes the stated objectives of the program are genuine and idealistic. He says spreading R&D funding and initiatives across the country, and around the globe in a fashion that prevents concentrations in the normal areas could reap huge rewards.

Godfrey believes that while similar people often think similarly, new ideas come from those who think differently. They aren't just "thinking outside the box" - they are dealing with a different type of structure entirely that doesn't even include a box. That's how we grow our knowledge by leaps and bounds.

Engineer John Nichols of Bluff City, Tennessee says the proof is in the resiliency. He cites studies post World War II where non-traditional employees were brought in to the U.S. industrial complex. It was a matter of the U.S.A. out-producing everyone with more employees and raw materials.

The U.S. became an economic production powerhouse because non-traditional people came together to get things done. Systems were re-evaluated and changed for efficiency and streamlining. It made the "Sleeping Giant" feared by Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, awaken. The rest is history.

Taking an outsider's view is difficult for those close to the problem. There are often overlooked solutions to complex issues. A diverse group working on supply chains, R&D, and manufacturing all lead to greater resiliency.

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Post pandemic economic recovery infrastructure programs seeking to bolster the broadband coverage in rural and remote parts of the country, can only lead to more involvement in regional and national R&D programs and distribution.

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Bristol, TN
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