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AI, quantum, space commercialization among White House R&D priorities

Artificial intelligence, quantum computing, personalized medicine, advanced communications and space commercialization are among the emerging technologies highlighted as research and development priorities for fiscal year 2020 by the White House.

In a July 31 memo from the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the administration pushed for federal research and development dollars to be “focused primarily on basic and early-stage applied research”  while still attending to the administration's deregulation plans and privatization efforts.

The memo, signed by OMB Director Mick Mulvaney and Deputy CTO Michael Kratsios, also urged agencies to adopt private-sector practices and technologies “where possible, that are easily adaptable to Federal needs, rather than reinventing solutions in parallel.”

On the security side, the White House instructed agencies to invest in technologies for border surveillance and detecting illicit smuggling as well as bolstered physical and cyber protection of critical infrastructure.

On emerging technologies, it’s full steam ahead for artificial intelligence, quantum science and supercomputing -- investment in which the White House called “critically important to our national security and economic competitiveness.”

When it comes to manufacturing, the memo specifically called out the internet of things, industrial robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and “smart and digital manufacturing.”

The priorities also specifically mentioned space exploration and commercialization. “One area of potential scientific and commercial importance is microgravity-related research that has the potential for near-term breakthroughs in biopharmaceuticals and materials science,” the memo said.

In the energy sector, the White House directed agencies to improve collaboration with industry and academia.

“Federally funded energy R&D should continue to reflect an increased reliance on the private sector to fund later-stage research, development, and commercialization of energy technologies,” the memo stated.

To carry out these priorities and to compete internationally in technological advancement, the administration called for investment in STEM education and workforce development strategies for a future tech workforce. The memo reiterated the President’s Management Agenda's focus on retraining employees to adapt to tech and cyber jobs.

The administration also said it wants to see agencies modernize their IT infrastructure to better “enable shared resources and improve capabilities across a range of disciplines.”

This article was first posted to FCW, a sibling site to GCN.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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