Robert Atkinson is the founder and president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a Washington, DC-based policy think tank. He is also author of Innovation Economics: The Race for Global Advantage (Yale, 2012), the book, The Past And Future Of America’s Economy: Long Waves Of Innovation That Power Cycles Of Growth (Edward Elgar, 2005), and the State New Economy Index series. He has an extensive background in technology policy, he has conducted ground-breaking research projects on technology and innovation, is a valued adviser to state and national policymakers, and a popular speaker on innovation policy nationally and internationally.
Before coming to ITIF, Dr. Atkinson was Vice President of the Progressive Policy Institute and Director of PPI’s Technology & New Economy Project. While at PPI he wrote numerous research reports on technology and innovation policy, including on issues such as broadband telecommunications, e-commerce and e-government, privacy, copyright, the R&D tax credit, offshoring, and innovation economics.
Previously Dr. Atkinson served as the first Executive Director of the Rhode Island Economic Policy Council, a public-private partnership including as members the Governor, legislative leaders, and corporate and labor leaders. As head of RIEPC, he was responsible for drafting a comprehensive economic strategic development plan for the state, developing a ten-point economic development plan, and working to successfully implement all ten proposals through the legislative and administrative branches. Prior to that he was Project Director at the former Congressional Office of Technology Assessment. While at OTA, he directed The Technological Reshaping of Metropolitan America, a seminal report examining the impact of the information technology revolution on America’s urban areas.
President Clinton appointed Dr. Atkinson to the Commission on Workers, Communities, and Economic Change in the New Economy; the Bush administration appointed him chair of Congressionally-created National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission; and the Obama administration appointed him to the National Innovation and Competitiveness Strategy Advisory Board. He currently serves as co-chair of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s China-U.S. Innovation Policy Experts Group, as a member of the U.S. State Department’s Advisory Committee on International Communications and Information Policy and as a member of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
He is a member of the Task Force on National Security in the Information Age, co-chaired by Markle Foundation president Zoe Baird and former Netscape Communications chairman James Barksdale. Atkinson is also a board member or advisory council member of the Internet Education Foundation, NetChoice Coalition, and the University of Oregon Institute for Policy Research and Innovation, and the State Science and Technology Institute. He is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Electronic Government and the Journal of Internet Policy, a member of the Global Innovation Forum Brain Trust, a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, and a fellow of the Glocom, a Tokyo-based research institute.
In 2013, The New Republic named Atkinson one of "the three most important thinkers about innovation". In 2011, Washingtonian Magazine named him a “Tech Titan”. Ars Technica listed Atkinson as one of 2009’s tech policy People to Watch. In 2006, Inc. Magazine listed Atkinson as one of 19 Friends of Small Business in Washington. In 2002, he was awarded the Wharton Infosys Business Transformation Award Silver Medal. In addition, Government Technology Magazine and the Center for Digital Government named him one of the 25 top Doers, Dreamers and Drivers of Information Technology.
Dr. Atkinson has testified before a number of committees in Congress and has appeared in various media outlets including CNBC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, NPR, and NBC Nightly News.
He received his Masters in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Oregon and was named a distinguished alumnus in 2014. He received his Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1989, where he was awarded the distinguished Joseph E. Pogue Fellowship.