A bill introduced in the Senate this week aims to steer tens of billions of new funding toward civilian Federal government research and development efforts involving “industries of the future” including artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum information science (QIS).

The Industries of the Future Act has bipartisan support from its sponsors Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Gary Peters, D-Mich.

The bill would task the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) with reporting to Congress an “assessment of the current baseline of investments in civilian research and development investments of the Federal government in the industries of the future.”  The legislation defines those industries to include AI, QIS, biotechnology, next-generation wireless networks and infrastructure, advanced manufacturing, and synthetic biology.

Once OSTP determined the current baseline of those Federal investments, it would provide to Congress a plan to “double such baseline investments in artificial intelligence and quantum information science” by Fiscal Year 2022.

OSTP also would be charged with giving Congress a plan to increase investments in the industries of the future to $10 billion per year by FY2025.  OSTP would also provide a plan to leverage all of those Federal investments in R&D “with complimentary investments by non-Federal entities to the greatest extent practicable.”

The bill also calls for the President to establish a coordination council to advise the OSTP director on industries of the future.  The council would provide advice on ways the Federal government can ensure that the U.S. “continues to lead the world in developing emerging technologies that improve the quality of life” for people in the U.S., and increase economic competitiveness and national security.

At a Jan. 15 hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on industries of the future, Sen. Wicker, who chairs the committee, said that “American leadership in AI is crucial to maintaining our economic and national security,” and that he was interested in hearing more about “creating global standards to ensure AI systems are reliable, safe, fair, and accurate.”

Testifying at the hearing, Federal CTO Michael Kratsios said that the U.S. leads the world in industries of the future, but that “as we look at the international landscape, American leadership in technologies like AI, QIS, and 5G [wireless communications] have never been more of an imperative.”

Kratsios said the White House issued a formal request for public comment on Jan. 13 on its proposed guidance made public earlier this month to govern development and use of AI in the private sector.

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.