April 23rd, 2021
Decades of government investment in R&D led to scientific breakthroughs that gave us the tools we use every day, and public-private partnerships have sparked innovations from the microchip to the internet. Government R&D investment has led to economic growth, jobs, and new startups. As just one example, some of Google’s earliest work was made possible, in part, by the Digital Library Initiative, funded by the National Science Foundation.
But if you fast forward to today, the U.S. government investment in tech has moved to the slow lane. Government-funded research in the U.S. has fallen by 60% as a percentage of GDP — from 1.9% of GDP in 1964 to just 0.7% today. Many countries around the world are investing significantly in research and development. For example, China has said that it will be increasing government R&D funding by 7% annually and recently announced a five-year plan to invest an additional $1.4 trillion in developing next-generation technologies.
As a nation we now have a historic opportunity to put aside partisanship and come together on an issue that will determine our future competitiveness. The United States must seize the moment to cultivate science and technology by setting out a national innovation strategy, and we commit to doing our part.
Senators Schumer and Young have introduced the bipartisan Endless Frontier Act — an important step in putting to work America’s strengths in science and technology to tackle some of the biggest issues of our time, from climate change to global health. Legislative proposals to increase funding for the National Science Foundation will accelerate innovation in the technologies of the future — including quantum computing, AI, biotech and genomics, advanced wireless networks, and robotics — and strengthen the U.S. innovation ecosystem through regional hubs spread throughout the country.
We are also encouraged to see that key components of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan call for increased investment in R&D, including a focus on advanced manufacturing, support for underrepresented students in STEM, and collaboration with U.S. universities. We hope Congress can come together in a bipartisan way to support extra investment in research and development.
Beyond direct support for R&D, our national innovation strategy should include support for immigration reform, entrepreneurial start-ups, regulatory clarity, and open data and interoperability.
America’s leadership in science and technology comes in part from our unmatched ability to recruit, train, and retain the world’s best talent. Our doors must be open to the best and the brightest, and we should make it easier for experts in vital technology fields to come to the United States and help grow our innovation economy. In parallel, a renewed focus on STEM education, skills-based training, and school-to-work apprenticeship programs will empower American workers and promote job and wage growth around the country.
America’s innovation framework should work for businesses of all sizes. At a time when we’re seeing record-setting investment in the promise of new companies, the government can pitch in by expanding access to public resources such as data, software, and computing infrastructure. Streamlined government contracting will also make it easier for startups to bid for large contracts and gain commercial opportunities.
Tech breakthroughs are built on accumulated and shared knowledge — we all stand on the shoulders of others. Data interoperability and open-source software help all of us, including smaller companies and research organizations. The government should promote interoperability, open data, and open-source applications by more actively sharing public data and contributing to open-source platforms.
Clear, balanced, and consistent regulations can unlock innovation while protecting consumers and ensuring an equal playing field. Any new generation of technology raises important new questions and requires a balancing of concerns. At the same time, streamlining regulatory burdens can speed great new products to market, helping smaller companies who can struggle to comply with costly or complex rules.
Larger companies like Google and Alphabet have an important role to play in supporting this work, and our public reports show that we’ve invested more than $100 billion in R&D over the last five years. We’ll keep publishing our findings in scientific journals and support public research through public-private partnerships, like our work with NSF on the National AI Research Institute for Human-AI Interaction and Collaboration and our breakthroughs in quantum computing. We also launched Google Career Certificates to help workers develop the skills they need and share in the benefits of growing industries. And because open data and open-source code are essential for innovation, we host a large number ofpublicly available datasets, services, and software accessible to everyone.
We welcome the moves made in recent days and weeks to support America’s innovation leadership. We’ll continue to look for opportunities to collaborate with the government, academic institutions, and others to do our part.