White House's new R&D priorities include border tech, artificial intelligence and IoT

National security, wireless connectivity, manufacturing, energy, medical innovation and future tech top the administration’s research and development agenda for fiscal year 2020.

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National security, future tech, wireless connectivity, manufacturing, energy, medical innovation and agricultural developments are highlights of the White House’s research and development priorities for fiscal year 2020.

In a July 31 memo from the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the White House builds on last year’s research and development priorities.

Specifically, the administration pushes for these priorities in agencies’ budgets, with federal research and development dollars “focused primarily on basic and early-stage applied research,” in addition to its deregulation plans and privatization efforts.

“Agencies should consider methods to reduce regulatory and administrative barriers and align incentives to engage with non-Federal actors, including through personnel exchanges and acquisition reform,” the memo reads.

The memo, signed by OMB Director Mick Mulvaney and Deputy CTO Michael Kratsios, also pushes agencies to adopt private-sector practices and technologies “where possible, that are easily adaptable to Federal needs, rather than reinventing solutions in parallel.”

Looking to 2020, Mulvaney and Kratsios push for America to lead in emerging technologies, from artificial intelligence and quantum computing to biotechnology, advanced wireless communications and space commercialization.

On the security side, the White House is instructing agencies to invest in technologies for border surveillance and detecting illicit smuggling. The administration also is pushing for bolstered physical and cyber protection of critical infrastructure.

On future technologies, it’s full steam ahead for artificial intelligence, quantum science and supercomputing -- investment in which the White House calls “critically important to our national security and economic competitiveness.”

When it comes to manufacturing, the memo specifically calls out the internet of things, industrial robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and “smart and digital manufacturing.”

The priorities also specifically mention space exploration and commercialization. “One area of potential scientific and commercial importance is microgravity-related research that has the potential for near-term breakthroughs in biopharmaceuticals and materials science,” the memo reads.

In the energy sector, the White House is directing agencies to improve collaboration with industry and academia.

“Federally funded energy R&D should continue to reflect an increased reliance on the private sector to fund later-stage research, development, and commercialization of energy technologies,” the memo states.

To carry out these priorities and to compete internationally in technological advancement, the administration calls for investment in STEM education and workforce development strategies for a future tech workforce. The memo reiterates the President’s Management Agenda focus on retraining employees to adapt to tech and cyber jobs.

The administration also wants to see agencies modernize their IT infrastructure and better “enable shared resources and improve capabilities across a range of disciplines.”