Chip/Science Bill Leaves NSF More Leeway for Tech Investments – MeriTalk

Everyone loves chips, but what about science?

The Chips and Science Act, which was passed by the House and Senate last week — and is expected to be signed by President Biden next week — has generated a lot of headlines over the law’s chips, including $52 billion in government aid to boost semiconductor makers. To build new plants in the United States.

At the same time, the scientific side of the equation has received much less explanation. Here are a few pointers from the bill’s broad impact on federally-funded research in many areas of technology.

Mary Talk’s review of the bill found that it would provide US scientific institutions, particularly the National Science Foundation (NSF), with $81 billion over five years, for a total of $100 billion in research and development.

A portion of the $81 billion is to establish NSF’s Technology Innovation Directorate to focus on areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), high-performance computing, and quantum information science.

The bill also directs the Commerce Department to create 20 “regional technology and innovation hubs” to spur technology development and “expand America’s innovation capabilities.”

While the law contains some specifics, it is mostly vague on the details, with little specific direction on what the Directorate of Technology and Innovation Centers will do. “Considering the availability of appropriated funds, the NSF directorate shall make awards through the directorate” that will achieve research-related goals.

In fact, as the review shows, the bill contains five times more lines explaining the duties of the assistant director of the directorate (58) than explaining the basic purpose of the directorate (11).

Here are some things we know about the technology-related provisions of the CHIPS and Science Act, which passed Congress on July 28.

Key technology areas

Buried in the 1,054-page bill (page 572) is a “preliminary list of key technology focus areas” for the new NSF Technology Directorate. They are in order:

(1) Artificial intelligence, machine learning, autonomy and related developments.

(2) High-performance computing, semiconductors, and advanced computer hardware and software.

(3) Quantum Information Science and Technology.

(4) Robotics, Automation and Advanced Manufacturing.

(5) Prevention or mitigation of natural and man-made hazards.

(6) Advanced Communication Technology and Immersive Technology.

(7) Biotechnology, Medical Technology, Genomics and Synthetic Biology.

(8) Data storage, data management, distributed ledger technologies and cyber security, including biometrics.

(9) Advanced energy and industrial efficiency technologies, such as batteries and advanced nuclear technologies.

(10) Advanced materials science, including composite 2D materials, other next-generation materials, and related manufacturing technologies.

According to other media, immersive technology is associated with Metaverse – the concept of the future, virtual reality, which is now the focus of Meta, named after Facebook.

Regional tech resources

The new regional technology centers are geographically distributed in areas not currently recognized as leading technology centers and are expected to receive $10 billion in funding from fiscal year 2023 to fiscal year 2027.

Grants or other financial support to the Center must be used to support “Human Resource Development Activities”, “Business and Entrepreneurship Development Activities” or “Technology Development and Maturation Activities”.

The details include:

  • The legislation also authorizes $38 million for fiscal years 2023 through 2025 for the NSF pilot program to report the computing needs of NSF-funded projects.
  • The amount allocated to study AI research capacity at US universities “including the potential for successful research in the field and the geographic diversity of successful research in the country” is unspecified.
  • The bill would require the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to submit to Congress a four-year comprehensive national science and technology strategy, focused primarily on economic security.
  • Without providing specifics, the bill says the government will support research on the cyber workforce, including pathways to entry and re-entry into the cyber workforce, and will create an information initiative through the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics’ National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics on the Cybersecurity Workforce.”
  • The bill directs the Commerce Secretary to establish an “award competition” to encourage technologies to “support affordable and reliable broadband connectivity in rural communities.”

That last item was one of the few mentions from the bill about broadband, which has been the focus of massive federal investment for decades. Just this year, the Federal Communications Commission said it is ready to authorize more than $313 million for broadband deployment in 19 states, in the eighth round of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

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