The Biden administration said Monday it has selected 31 regions as potential recipients of federal money that will try to finance innovation in parts of the country that government investment has ignored in the past.
The announcement was the first phase of a program that aims to set up so-called technology hubs across the country in various cutting-edge industries such as quantum computing, precision medicine and clean energy. The administration said that in the coming months, regions will compete for a share of the $500 million, with about five to 10 projects each receiving up to $75 million.
The program will test the central idea of a bipartisan bill that lawmakers passed last year: that science and technology funding should not be concentrated just in Silicon Valley and a few affluent coastal areas, but should flow to parts of the country that are underserved. Are sparsely populated or have been historically sparsely populated. Government funding received was less.
Proponents of the program say that these investments can utilize workers and economic resources that are not reaching their full potential, and improve the U.S. economy as well as its technological capabilities.
But it remains to be seen whether sending money to more remote locations, which struggle with issues such as the outflow of youth workers, will ultimately be the most effective way to use government money to boost tech gains.
The Commerce Department said the 31 finalists were selected from nearly 400 applicants. They include proposals to manufacture semiconductors in New York and Oregon, design autonomous systems for transportation and agriculture in Oklahoma, biotechnology research in Indiana and process critical minerals in Missouri.
In Washington on Monday, President Biden said these technology centers will bring together private industry, academic institutions, state and local governments, tribes and organized labor to produce “transformational” research.
“We are doing it from coast to coast and in the heartland and red states and blue states, small towns, cities of all sizes,” Mr Biden said. “This is all part of my strategy to invest in America and invest in Americans.”
The majority leader, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, said in an interview on Monday that the Tech Hub program, which he created with Indiana Republican Senator Todd Young, helped garner bipartisan support for the Chips and Science Act last year Was. ,
The legislation included $200 billion for basic scientific research and more than $75 billion in grants and tax credits for semiconductor companies. Its purpose was to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign manufacturers of computer chips and other critical technology.
Mr. Schumer said that “it was a huge selling point” for the overall bill that the funding was not just going to “three or four cities in blue states.”
“There was such a divide between countries, coasts and non-coasts, and much of that was because all these new technology and high-end industries were located on the coasts,” he said. “And so we created the Tech Hub program to spread across the middle of America.”
Mr Schumer was visiting Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse on Monday to celebrate New York’s inclusion of two proposals, one of which focused on semiconductor manufacturing and on the other battery technology,
“There’s a lot of untapped talent here,” he said.
Mark Murrow, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, described the Tech Hub program as “a grand experiment” in industrial policy.
Mr. Muro said the United States has seen incredible power in concentrating technology investment in a few key locations, such as Silicon Valley, where companies in related businesses can benefit by clustering together. But those investment patterns have led to a tremendous imbalance in the country’s economy, where “only a few places are really prosperous and a lot of talent and a lot of innovation are left on the table,” he said.
“This is a completely different map,” Mr. Muro said, “I think we need to do some experiments and some of them will probably be great investments.”
The announcements attempted to balance the many competing goals of technology centers, including whether to invest in more and more areas – or whether to invest in certain areas in the hope of engineering radical economic improvements in those areas. The focus should be on expenditure. He also reflected the high interest in the program of the regional authorities and their representatives at the Congress.
The administration is trying to do as much as possible with initial funding for the program that is well below the maximum level set by lawmakers in the CHIPS bill. While that bill authorized Congress to fund various programs, lawmakers still need to greenlight actual money for many tech hub investments as well as other programs.
Given those financial constraints, some supporters of the program said Monday they hoped administration officials would eventually focus most of the funding on a small group of announced centers. Ideally, “you would be extremely narrow about who gets the funding,” said John Lettieri, president and chief executive of the Economic Innovation Group, a Washington think tank. “The more narrow the better.”
He added, “The later round of funding announcements is where we have to be quite ruthless in depoliticizing the process as much as possible.”
Madeleine NGO Contributed to the reporting.