Robert D. Atkinson

Robert D. Atkinson
President
Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

As founder and president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), recognized as the worlds top think tank for science and technology policy, Robert D. Atkinson leads a prolific team of policy analysts and fellows that is successfully shaping the debate and setting the agenda on a host of critical issues at the intersection of technological innovation and public policy.

He is an internationally recognized scholar and a widely published author whom The New Republic has named one of the “three most important thinkers about innovation,” Washingtonian Magazine has called a “tech titan,” Government Technology Magazine has judged to be one of the 25 top “doers, dreamers and drivers of information technology,” and the Wharton Business School has awarded him the “Wharton Infosys Business Transformation Award.”

A sought-after speaker and valued adviser to policymakers around the world, Atkinson’s books include Big is Beautiful: Debunking the Mythology of Small Business (MIT Press, 2018); Innovation Economics: The Race for Global Advantage (Yale, 2012), and The Past And Future Of America’s Economy: Long Waves Of Innovation That Power Cycles Of Growth (Edward Elgar, 2005). He also has conducted groundbreaking research projects and authored hundreds of articles and reports on technology and innovation-related topics ranging from tax policy to advanced manufacturing, productivity, and global competitiveness. He has testified before the United States Congress more than 30 times.

President Clinton appointed Atkinson to the Commission on Workers, Communities, and Economic Change in the New Economy; the Bush administration appointed him chair of the congressionally created National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission; and the Obama administration appointed him to the National Innovation and Competitiveness Strategy Advisory Board. He also has served 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. Department of Commerce’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship; and on the U.S. State Department’s Advisory Committee on International Communications and Information.

Atkinson is a member of the Markle Foundation Task Force on National Security in the Information Age and serves on the boards or advisory councils of the Internet Education Foundation, the NetChoice Coalition, the University of Oregon’s Institute for Policy Research and Innovation, and the State Science and Technology Institute. Additionally, Atkinson is on the editorial boards 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; a fellow at the Columbia University Institute of Tele-Information; and a fellow of Glocom, a Tokyo-based research institute.

Atkinson was previously vice president of the Progressive Policy Institute, where he directed the Technology & New Economy Project. He wrote numerous research reports on technology and innovation policy, covering issues such as broadband telecommunications, e-commerce, e-government, privacy, copyright, R&D tax policy, offshoring, and innovation economics.

Previously, Atkinson served as the first executive director of the Rhode Island Economic Policy Council (RIEPC), a public-private partnership whose members included the state’s governor, legislative leaders, and both corporate and labor leaders. As head of RIEPC, Atkinson was responsible for drafting a comprehensive economic development strategy for the state and working with the legislature and executive branch of government to successfully implement each element of a 10-point action agenda.

Prior to his service in Rhode Island, Atkinson was a project director at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, where, among other projects, he spearheaded The Technological Reshaping of Metropolitan America, a seminal report examining the impact of the information technology revolution on America’s urban areas.

As a respected policy expert and commentator, Atkinson has testified numerous times before the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and he appears frequently on news and public affairs programs. Among others, these appearances have included interviews on BBC, CNBC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, NPR, and NBC Nightly News.

Atkinson holds a Ph.D. in city and regional planning from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he was awarded the prestigious Joseph E. Pogue Fellowship. He earned his master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Oregon, which named him a distinguished alumnus in 2014.

Recent Publications

February 14, 2019

While many pundits claim monopoly is the scourge of the U.S. economy, Rob Atkinson writes that the airline industry demonstrates why this narrative is wrong.

February 7, 2019

The Washington trade and economics establishment has largely dismissed the threat Chinese innovation mercantilist practices pose to the U.S. economy, jobs and national security. The threat is serious, and China needs to be confronted, Rob Atkinson writes for the Washington Post.

January 24, 2019

As Rob Atkinson writes for RealClearPolicy, we will not run out of jobs because we will not run out of work to do. It's as simple as that.

January 22, 2019

Intellectual property regimes that tilt too far toward granting data rights run the risk of stifling needed data sharing, while regimes that tilt foo far in the other direction risk limiting incentives for data collection and innovation.

January 15, 2019

In a review for the New York Journal of Books, Rob Atkinson writes that anyone involved in managing any organization, large or small, is likely to find much to appreciate in “Creative Construction: The DNA of Sustained Innovation” by Gary P. Pisano.

January 7, 2019

The next wave of digital innovation is coming. Countries can welcome it, prepare for it, and ride it to new heights of innovation and prosperity, or they can ignore the changing tide and miss the wave.

December 18, 2018

A featured essay for Australian’s Department of Industry, Innovation and Science discusses what nations can to do spur productivity growth and encourage the development of new technologies.

December 18, 2018

If Europe wants to set its own course in the new global order, then the most important first step is to join with America to fight for free trade and an open Chinese market.

December 17, 2018

Future of work will be different for every country, region, worker, and student. This is clear in France, Germany, Spain, and the United States. Policymakers should respond accordingly.

December 14, 2018

The federal government invests approximately $121 billion per year funding research and development (R&D) in everything from agriculture to health, defense, energy, and a host of other areas.

December 9, 2018

In commentary for the Epoch Times, ITIF President Rob Atkinson writs that it’s time for China to start acting like a globally responsible trading partner. If it does, then the Chinese economy and the world economy will be better off.

December 1, 2018

As Rob Atkinson writes in The Hill, the empirical evidence shows that the current panic around the supposed growth of “monopolies” in the U.S. economy is vastly overstated.

Recent Events and Presentations

March 28, 2019

Join ITIF for a panel discussion exploring the controversies of the H-1B visa, why talented migration drives the knowledge economy, and a discussion on how the U.S. can become more competitive in attracting tomorrow’s talent.

February 20, 2019

E-commerce has exploded in recent years and with it the need for affordable and reliable package delivery services. Because the U.S.

December 12, 2018

While the technology industry was once seen as being committed to building a better and smarter world, shifting public perceptions towards the tech industry have caused it to go on the defensive when it comes to issues ranging from data privacy to income equity, workplace diversity, and antitrust enforcement. Has the technology industry become worthy of the same scrutiny as the oil, banking, or airline industry? Join ITIF for an in-depth discussion of these critical issues, including an assessment of the validity of commonly voiced concerns and what the industry needs to do to avoid becoming the next Big Oil.

December 11, 2018

What should we make of large corporations today? Of all that can be said about large corporations—statistics, anecdotes, trend lines, and historical comparisons—which are the facts that matter most, and how should policymakers respond? Join ITIF for a spirited debate moderated by CNN's Lydia DePillis between ITIF President Robert Atkinson and Columbia University Law Professor Tim Wu on the role and influence of big business in today’s economy and society.

December 6, 2018

Rob Atkinson spoke on a panel at the 2018 G7 Multistakeholder Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Montréal, Canada.

December 5, 2018

The U.S. needs to cultivate more and better clusters of small and medium-sized (SME) manufacturing firms in order to compete in a global industry with an increased reliance on smart manufacturing technologies. Join ITIF for a morning conference exploring how digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, 3D printing, and the Internet of Things are reshaping modern manufacturing and what policymakers can do to help foster high-performance SME manufacturing clusters.

December 4, 2018

In a presentation to the National Economist Club, Rob Atkinson discussed U.S. manufacturers' preparedness for automation and new technologies.

November 28, 2018

Even with continued improvements and cost reductions to current emissions reducing technologies, the world is not on track to achieve the deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Join ITIF for the release of a new report analyzing hard-to-decarbonize sectors and an expert panel discussion on the limits of current technologies and potential solutions.

November 15, 2018

Economists and policymakers have led an effort to explain technological innovation as good for workers throughout the economy, but why have so many become so eager to throw robots under the bus by blaming automation for labor market woes? Join ITIF for an expert discussion of Oren Cass's new book on the future of work, related technological and economic trends, and their implications for policymakers.

October 12, 2018

At the sixth annual fall conference hosted by the Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property , Rob Atkinson participated in a panel discussing "A Different Perspective on Big Data."

September 25, 2018

Quantum computing offers the extraordinary potential to analyze in minutes problems a conventional computer could take thousands of years to solve. It represents “the space race of the computing era,” and few people understand it as well as Professor Michelle Simmons.

September 12, 2018

Rob Atkinson spoke on a panel at the "Revitalizing American Industries: Putting Technology and Workforce Development to Work" event hosted by Real Clear Politics.

Testimonials

Rob Atkinson, “has a unique and enviable capacity to communicate cutting-edge analysis of emerging and effective economic development practices. In that, he made high level concepts very accessible and relevant to those in the front line of growing jobs and the economy. We consider ourselves to be very fortunate you were able to share your voice, vision, wisdom, and experience with our regional leaders.”

- Jim Prosser Executive Director, Centralina Council of Governments 

Dr. Robert D. Atkinson was an excellent addition as an international keynote speaker at the Innovation Day, hosted by the Portuguese Industrial Association (AIP) in Lisbon. Dr. Atkinson’s presentation on lessons from the U.S. innovation system was insightful and engaging. His encouraging perspective on innovation and its potential role in the Portugal context during a moderated discussion was thought provoking for the audience. Dr. Atkinson is an excellent speaker and a pleasure to collaborate with.

- Augusto Medina President, Sociedade Portuguesa de Inovacao S.A. 

Dr. Atkinson’s keynote on “Innovation Waves” was a highlight of our P&G Alumni Innovation Summit. His long view of how innovation shapes business and economic growth provides clear direction on what’s needed to sustain US competitiveness in the decades to come. Rob was able to share a balanced view of what’s working and not working today, outlining a sensible approach for Federal R&D spending and regulatory policy.

- Wayne Fisher President, Rockdale Innovation