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.

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

September 24, 2018

Much of what people assume to be true about big business is completely wrong. Rob Atkinson and Michael Lind cover five of the most egregious examples in this Innovation Files post.

September 17, 2018

In an article for American Interest with Admiral Dennis Blair, Rob Atkinson argues that it’s time for America to rise to the challenge of "Made in China 2025" by developing its own comprehensive plan to maintain competitive advantage advanced technology industries.

August 28, 2018

Most of the opposition to Amazon/Whole Foods merger had little or nothing to do with economics and consumer welfare. Instead, it had everything to do with a competing vision for the kind of society we want to live in.

August 20, 2018

Duty-free access to U.S. markets represents a major benefit for many trading partners that clearly do not provide fair and reasonable market access or treatment of U.S. firms and their goods and services.

August 13, 2018

Manufacturing digitalization promises to transform how products are designed, fabricated, used, and serviced, but more needs to be done to facilitate the uptake of digital technologies by manufacturers in the United States, Korea, and beyond.

July 26, 2018

China is marching toward global technological, economic, and military leadership. Who was responsible for letting this happen? In an opinion piece for National Review, Rob Atkinson explains how pretty much everyone—from successive U.S. administrations and the Washington trade and economics establishment to China itself—is at fault.

July 25, 2018

As Rob Atkinson and Michael Lind write for Entrepreneur, there's no need for reflexive hand-wringing about the decline of startups.

July 13, 2018

Before we give into fears that an eventual last human worker will have nothing left to do but turn out the lights, remember that similar alarms have sounded throughout history and it has never ended the way people expected it would at the time writes Rob Atkinson in Innovation Files.

July 13, 2018

The bottom line analysis of China’s recent statement is that part of this trade war, which China launched two decades ago, will be won or lost in the court of global opinion. The media, policymakers and citizens around the world should not fall for the Chinese spin that it is the victim writes Rob Atkinson in Innovation Files.

July 5, 2018

Trump’s approach to tariffs has drawn widespread criticism, sparking a debate in which partisans have made all sorts of claims and counter-claims. This briefing sets the record straight on 10 important points of fact.

July 2, 2018

While the hardcore populist Big Tech and ISP haters will only be satisfied with radical breakups or regulated monopolies, or even public ownership model, polls show most Americans understand it is important to have private companies with strong incentives to be efficient, innovate, and provide ever-increasing product quality, and that it’s a bad idea for government to run them writes Rob Atkinson in Innovation Files

June 18, 2018

Despite assertions by President Trump that the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is charging too little for package delivery, the evidence shows that package delivery is not subsidized and, in fact, that package revenue is playing a key role in shoring up shaky USPS finances.

Recent Events and Presentations

September 25, 2018

Please join ITIF for an in-depth discussion about the future of quantum computing and its game-changing possibilities.

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.

July 12, 2018

U.S.-China economic tensions are escalating, raising serious questions. What are the prospects of these tit-for-tat tariff measures escalating into a full-blown trade war?

June 21, 2018

Please join ITIF for a fascinating discussion with author Mark Zachary Taylor to better understand the politics of innovation and the implications for the United States.

June 8, 2018

Rob Atkinson presented on the next production revolution and its impact on employment at the "Summit on the Credentialing Economy" hosted by Connecting Credentials and Saylor Academy. The summit explored the evolving world of credentialing, including the value of credentials in seeking employment; technology tools to create and distribute credentials and emerging models and frameworks to ensure quality.

May 24, 2018

Rob Atkinson presented on the challenges and opportunities in driving Korean innovation for the the Next Production Revolution to an international conference focused on Korea’s growth as an innovative and inclusive nation on May 24th in Seoul, South Korea.

April 16, 2018

Please join the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation for a panel discussion marking the release of Big Is Beautiful. Speakers will address the role and impact of large firms on the U.S. economy and society, and delve into the implications for policymakers.

March 8, 2018

Rob Atkinson participated in a public workshop held by the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, DC. The workshop explored issues regarding competition in the contact lens marketplace, consumer access to contact lenses, prescription release and portability, and related subjects.

February 20, 2018

Please join ITIF for a panel discussion of the challenges and opportunities posed by the coming wave of technological innovation in the economy and the steps and policies that policymakers should enact to ensure that American workers are prepared for an era of significant technological change.

December 6, 2017

In a deeply integrated global economy, with a growing number of goods and services readily tradeable across borders, nations face stiff competition to grow and attract high-value-added, traded-sector industries. Refusing to engage in this competition is not an option- so how can policymakers stem the dangerous decline in U.S. economic competitiveness.

December 1, 2017

Join ITIF for two expert panels on the intersection of technology and the future of U.S. manufacturing.

November 28, 2017

Technology-based startups are key drivers of America’s economic growth because they make outsized contributions to employment, innovation, and productivity. Unfortunately, policymakers tend to focus indiscriminately on helping small business startups without specifically targeting technology-based startups that have high growth potential. How can policymakers support the formation and success of new technology firms at the national and local level?

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