Emerging technologies

Congress is on the cusp of approving historic legislation that would provide more than $50 billion to the semiconductor sector and lay out ambitious expansion plans for a set of federal science agencies.

Democratic leaders are narrowing their ambitions for Congress’ bipartisan innovation policy bill in a push to finish it in July, but many questions remain about what the final product will look like.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s base budget is increasing 3% for fiscal year 2022, despite the Biden administration’s bid to boost it by around 40% to nearly $1.5 billion. The administration is making a similar push this year in large part to bolster NIST’s role in fostering advanced manufacturing and emerging technologies.

Congress increased the National Science Foundation’s budget by 4% to $8.8 billion for fiscal year 2022, undershooting the ambitious targets proposed by the Biden administration and pending landmark legislation. The administration is now again seeking to surge NSF’s budget past $10 billion to build out its newest directorate and to expand climate change research and STEM workforce diversity initiatives.

At a House Science Committee hearing last week, lawmakers and witnesses pushed back against proposals to try to block rival countries from influencing international standards, and instead advocated for strengthening the industry-led approach the U.S. has traditionally relied on.

The National Science Foundation has created its first new directorate in 30 years to expand support for “use-inspired” research and technology development, though its exact scope is still under debate in Congress.

The two federal agencies that oversee users of the electromagnetic spectrum have pledged to improve their coordination after a series of high-profile disputes over spectrum allocation decisions.

FYI presents its annual list of 10 science policy stories to watch in the year ahead.

Science and technology provisions included in Congress’ latest defense policy update reflect lawmakers ongoing interest in accelerating the adoption of emerging technologies; advancing specific technology categories such as quantum computing, microelectronics, and biotechnology; and streamlining collaboration between the Defense Department and extramural researchers.

As part of its efforts to bolster domestic supply chains for critical technologies, the Department of Energy is implementing a policy that requires inventions resulting from DOE-funded R&D to be “substantially manufactured” in the U.S. unless it grants a waiver.