Why Federal R&D Policy Needs to Prioritize Productivity to Drive Growth and Reduce the Debt-to-GDP Ratio

Author: Robert D. Atkinson
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By Robert D. Atkinson, President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

This paper was prepared as part of a Concord Coalition project on fiscally responsible economic growth. Generous financial support was provided by Jeff Fox, Chairman and CEO of Harbour Group, St. Louis Missouri.

For a full version of the paper click here.

For a summary of the Capitol Hill paper release event click here.

Paper Summary

For decades, those focused on the troubling growth of the federal budget deficit have counseled policymakers to cut spending and increase taxes. This paper argues that it’s time for a supplementary approach that seeks to grow the U.S. economy by spurring productivity-enhancing technologies.

Research and development (R&D) spending in the United States has fallen significantly as a share of GDP and current R&D is not focused on advancing technologies that drive productivity. Congress and the administration need to devote more direct and indirect funding to R&D focused on developing technologies that will boost productivity.

The federal government needs to spur an increase in government and business R&D and better allocate that R&D to areas likely to best spur productivity growth such as robotics, artificial intelligence and new materials. This will require recognizing productivity-related innovation as a key national mission that deserves support from government the way defense, health, and energy do. If successful, it will not only reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio, it will boost productivity and worker wages.

Media Coverage:

Government Urged to Boost R&D Spending, The Wall Street Journal

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