The National Science Foundation (NSF) launched a $30 million program to assess gains from research and development (R&D) related investments, and to predict how the U.S. could strategically fund future research in emerging technologies.

The Assessing and Predicting Technology Outcomes program will support a cohort of projects that will work together to complement their respective R&D efforts on technology outcome models to accurately describe three types of technology outcomes: capabilities, production, and use.

“These models should be able to predict future as well as past states of technology outcomes,” according to a program summary from NSF. “The outcome of this work will help assess and evaluate the effectiveness of U.S. R&D investments and generate information that decision makers could use to strategize and optimize investments for advancing long-term U.S. competitiveness into the future.”

In addition, the program will look closely at investments in ten research areas including AI, biotech, and quantum sciences – areas identified in the CHIPS and Science Act.

The new NSF program is especially “interested in the collection and aggregation of data and the analytics associated with that, that allows us to be able to understand capabilities.” Ultimately, the goal is to construct models that describe the impact of past investments and can be used to target future ones.

According to NSF, the research program is part of an emerging field of the “science of science” that aims to use scientific tools to study scientific R&D efforts. Scientific advances fuel economies and contribute to improving human health and life – and they are increasingly at the center of geopolitics.

However, “disruptive science research” that pushes science in new directions is happening less often than it did in the last century, according to a report released earlier this year.

“The U.S. economy is driven by America’s unique innovation ecosystem, which starts with Federal investments in research and development,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “Through this new program, we aim to identify the specific investments that will enable the Nation to intentionally accelerate the development of critical technologies at speed and scale well into the future.”

The U.S. has made significant efforts to strengthen its investment in scientific R&D to compete for top talent and scientific and technological dominance on a global scale.

According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, in 2020 the U.S. spent $730 billion in R&D funding. And last year it authorized $200 billion in Federal scientific research funding over the next ten years with the passing of the CHIPS and Science Act.

“It’s really important for us to be sure that we are investing those resources effectively to be able to advance U.S. competitiveness [and] to foster innovation to benefit all Americans all across this country,” said Erwin Gianchandani, assistant director for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships at the NSF.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.