Federally Supported Innovations

February 3, 2014
The origins of many technologies can be traced to an initial investment of U.S. federal research and development (R&D) support.

The report examines 22 cases of successful U.S. innovations in which the development of key foundational technologies stemmed at least in part from federal investment in research and development (R&D). The cases cover technologies developed across a wide range of fields over the past half century, from information and communications technology, energy, and healthcare to transportation, agriculture, and mathematics. The report explains how federal support for R&D is critically important to today’s innovation system, including because of its investment in research and in technologies too far from market for the private sector to invest in, and because federal investment in R&D complements and spurs additional private sector R&D investment. It concludes by arguing that if the United States wishes to regain the world lead in terms of innovation (as a share of its economy) it will need to expand, not contract, federal support for R&D, which means reversing the sequestration cuts to federal R&D scheduled to return in FY 2015.