Hello from FedInvent,
We hope you are enjoying your summer. First, here are the links to the latest FedInvent Reports:
The CHIPS Act So Far
Congress loves a good acronym.
On July 27, the Senate voted 64 to 33 to approve the "Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) Act." The House bill, the America COMPETES Act, "America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology, and Economic Strength Act of 2022," the passed in the House in March of 2022. The older version of the bill is called the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021. (Sorry, no acronym.)
A formal conference to reconcile differences between the Senate-passed CHIPS Act and House-passed COMPETES Act will occur before the bill makes it to the White House for President Biden's signature.
We've been keeping track of the R&D initiatives in the CHIPS Act. (It’s still fluid.) There's about to be a deluge of science and technology money sloshing around. So get your grant writers and patent attorneys ready.
Aside from the $55 billion in grants, loan guarantees, and other support to increase US semiconductor production and a new temporary 25% "advanced manufacturing investment credit" for investments in semiconductor manufacturing property, estimated to cost $24 billion, the CHIPS bill includes:
A new National Science Foundation (NSF) Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships with a $20B budget. This new funding adds to NSF's $10B FY 2022 funding; and another $600M in two-year supplemental funding appropriated under the American Rescue Plan of 2021. (A 200% increase!!)
$1.5 billion for the Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund. The Innovation Fund seeks to help US companies produce "leap-ahead" telecommunications technologies to out-innovate Chinese state-owned companies like Huawei when developing beyond 5G telecommunications technologies. This fund will be administered by the Department of Commerce (DOC) National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
$10 billion for geographically distributed Regional Technology Hubs will allow regions of the United States to focus on industry-specific technology development, job creation, and innovation. Representative Ro Khanna, who seeks to spread technology jobs across the country, should be happy. (It's easier said than done.)
$50 billion for the Department of Energy's National Laboratories and Office of Science programs to maintain American leadership in world-leading scientific research and research facilities.
It's easy to lose track of the flood of new R&D funding sloshing around. In addition to the CHIPS Act funding, the Infrastructure Law is loaded with R&D funding for the Department of Energy, the Department of Transportation, and a host of other entities that are responsible for trains, planes, automobiles, roads, EV chargers, and the Grid, and a host of other “infrastructure improvements.”
Creating a complete list of the government's R&D funding is daunting. The most reliable source we've found is the Congressional Research Service Federal R&D Funding Report. (It's comprehensive but not an easy read!) It's hard to calculate a return on investment when you don't know how much the investment is. So the FedInvent team presses on.
The amount of federal money being spent on R&D funding is exploding. But how will the people responsible for handing out grants and contracts ensure US taxpayer dollars are not wasted?
There's another issue surrounding the onslaught of new federal R&D funding. How will the people responsible for handing out grants and contracts ensure that US taxpayer dollars are wasted? How do you prevent the R&D fraudsters from coming out of the woodwork?
FedInvent keeps track of a host of research fraudsters. Most involve financial and resume shenanigans — adding a principal investigator's children as researchers; beefing up the curriculum vitae with unearned accolades; fibbing about how many hours a principal investigator is spending on grant projects. Then Charles Pillar's July article in Science, "Blots on a Field? — A neuroscience image sleuth finds signs of fabrication in scores of Alzheimer's articles threatening a reigning theory of the disease," landed in our inbox.
Mr. Pillar's exceptional article provides all the details — faked-up images that support questionable research, wasted R&D money from NIH, and failure of anyone along the way to validate the research. (You can read the article here.)
NIH has a significant mess it's going to have to clean up. Aside from funding R&D based on doctored-up research papers, there are hundreds of patents funded by federal R&D money that involve amyloid beta technology.
Photoshopped images may have enabled years of R&D funding. The articles and their images took scientists down a rabbit hole of assumptions about what is settled science and what isn't. Anyone who questioned the amyloid beta science" became a pariah. Not to mention all the people who hoped that this research and the drugs it created could be the answer to their prayers for something to help their loved ones. (Present company included.)
The Science article makes the work being done by the Intelligence Community, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice on funding development tools and methods to detect, authenticate and verify the source and authenticity of digital images move compelling. Much of their work focuses on authenticating social media images, hunting down deep fakes, and verifying geographic and photographic information from UAVs and other surveillance photography. These same techniques will be useful in verifying digital files supporting scientific research. The National Institute of Health (NIH) might want to explore its use for research paid for by US taxpayers.
The Grid — Read This Book
As we are writing this, the Senate is in the process of voting for the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. The Inflation Reduction Act adds a significant amount of clean energy and clean transportation funding to the climate change mitigation R&D complex. The climate change-related funding in the bill could top $363B.
The Infrastructure Law also has a significant pot of money for upgrading the Grid. According to the White House, when the bill was signed into law, the Infrastructure Law invests roughly $60 billion – the single largest investment in American history – in clean energy transmission. It upgrades our power infrastructure, including by building thousands of miles of new, resilient transmission lines to facilitate the expansion of renewable energy. It creates a new Grid Deployment Authority, invests in research and development for advanced transmission and electricity distribution technologies, and promotes smart grid technologies that deliver flexibility and resilience. It invests in demonstration projects and research hubs for next-generation technologies like advanced nuclear reactors, carbon capture, and clean hydrogen.
For all of this clean technology to work, it needs to connect to the Grid. We've been spending a lot of time trying to determine the state of the Grid — macro, micro, and smart. So how does the Grid work? What needs to be done to implement all the new electric technology on its way to an outlet near you?
Read Gretchen Bakke's book, "The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future." It's a good mix of technorati and understandable speak that spells out the host of issues facing our green technology future. The bottom line? The science and technology policymakers need to focus on the Grid.
So far this year, there are 125 patent applications and 120 new patents for battery-related inventions. During the same period, there are only 11 patents for inventions related to improving the electric Grid and only four 2022 taxpayer-funded patent applications that specifically address improvements to the Grid. There are a few inventions that deal with the nuances of implementing microgrids for sharing power among neighbors or how to improve the illusive "smart grid." (Figuring out how to streamline the transactional part of the shift to electric vehicles and other clean technology is another important area requiring serious thought and innovation.) There are a few patents on wind turbines, solar energy, and improvement to gas engines for energy generation. The scope of these innovations is not what you'd expect when you consider the size of federal spending on green technology.
A Few Grid Reality Checks
California is asking people not to charge their electric vehicles during the day. At the same time, Congress is deciding on new incentives for buying electric vehicles and how to create charging infrastructure so you can actually take a road trip across America with your EV without EV range anxiety. Spain made it illegal to set the air conditioner's thermostat below 80 degrees. The Spanish measure applies to offices, shops, bars, and restaurants, as well as public transport systems and transport centers. (It could be a tough time to get stuck in the airport.) The goal is to use less gas, Russian gas in particular, to power their Grid. The Western US power authorities have been warning of brownouts as the temperatures hit all-time highs.
Time to focus on the Grid.
Before We Go
The FedInvent team has been working on new analytics to make it easier to see the nexus between grants, contracts, and inventions.
FedInvent expects a flood of new R&D funding transactions from NSF and its new directorate(s). The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will be handling the flow of research money from the Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund. We expect a host of collaborative research agreements with private sector partners. There is R&D funding heading to DOD via the National Defense Authorization Act and DOT via the Infrastructure Act. FedInvent is investing in its infrastructure to be ready for the growth in taxpayer-funded R&D spending.
We are anxiously awaiting the unveiling of the new iEdison system. The National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) will launch the new iEdison system on Tuesday, August 9, 2022, following the transfer of the management of the system from NIH. iEdison will be offline from Tuesday, August 2, 2022, through Monday, August 8, 2022.
Moving this system has taken a very long time. We are also perplexed about why two giant federal entities couldn't move a mission-critical system from one agency to another without bringing it down for a week. According to the project's development timeline, iEdison is already late, and it looks like there will still be data that needs to be moved even after the August 9 launch. The team successfully unveiled its new logo. We'll let you know how it goes.
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Thanks for reading FedInvent. See you next time.
The FedInvent Team
FedInvent tells the stories of inventors, investigators, and innovators. Wayfinder Digital's FedInvent Project follows the federal innovation ecosphere, taxpayer money, and the inventions it pays for. FedInvent is a work in progress. Please reach out if you have questions or suggestions. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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