Capitol Corner — December 2018

Published monthly as part of the FLC’s DC Perspective content, Capitol Corner focuses on one notable news item pertaining to the T2 community. The focus stems from agency publications, news sites, and DC-central organizations, with original sources, contacts, and links provided. For more information and Corner-related inquiries, please contact dcnews@federallabs.org.


2018 End-of-Year Recap

2018 closed with President Trump enacting a partial government shutdown, with talks circulating of it continuing far into the new year. With that said, major strides have been made across our main areas of coverage, notably quantum information science (QIS) and larger T2 initiatives like the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) ROI Initiative.

National Quantum Initiative Signed into Law

Before the holidays, President Trump signed the National Quantum Initiative (NQI) Act into law. NIST’s Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology (VCAT) invited Jake Taylor from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to discuss QIS research and development (R&D). In June, Taylor announced the OSTP’s Subcommittee on QIS would publish the blueprint for a National Quantum Initiative, which was drafted to authorize “specific National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy (DOE), and NIST programs for quantum R&D” two weeks later, with the House passing its version of the bill in September. The Senate also proposed a $5-million investment in a private quantum consortium to spearhead public-private cross-agency R&D for the technology. As with its introduction in June, the final act concerns DOE, NSF, and NIST and their R&D and education priorities for QIS.

NIST operates the Joint Quantum Institute, championed by Taylor during his time as a NIST theorist, and the Joint Center for Quantum Information and Computer Science at the University of Maryland, as well as quantum activities at JILA at the University of Colorado Boulder. These two campuses, in addition to the $5-million consortium project, will identify research opportunities for quantum measurement, standards, cybersecurity, and other matters. Over the next five years—ending in 2023—NIST will spend up to $400 million to fund QIS projects.

NSF is being tasked with developing quantum resources, including workforce training and fulfillment. NSF is already funding several QIS grant programs through $31 million in awards and roadmaps under the Foundation’s 10 Big Ideas. It will also charter the founding of up to five Multidisciplinary Centers for Quantum Research and Education—which can include nonprofits and academia—with $10 million of annual funding through 2023 with a five-year renewal option. NSF will strive to champion public-private industry perspectives into QIS R&D. Similarly, DOE will fund National QIS Research Centers with up to $25 million in annual grants on the same plane at the Department’s existing Nanoscale Science Research Centers. Additionally, DOE announced 85 research awards totaling $218 million last September.

The Act will be coordinated and administered by the White House’s QIS Subcommittee, which recently released its draft strategic overview. The Subcommittee includes all of the agencies the Act oversees, as well as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Department of Defense (DoD), and others. President Trump will also be establishing a NQI Advisory Committee to recommend, biennially report, and manage progress and management on QIS trends in science and technology. Finally, the Act will authorize the creation of a National Quantum Coordination Office’s to promote NQI funding opportunities and public outreach.

NIST’s Reorganization of T2 Policies in Its Green Paper

Earlier this month, NIST published a Green Paper on its ROI Initiative and made it available for comment. Linked to CAP Goal 14, the initiative seeks to streamline and accelerate T2 adoption, commercialization, and legislation. The Green Paper established regulatory and administrative improvements to prioritize American innovation and technological advancements. As we await comment on the draft document, NIST is beginning the reorganization of critical T2 policies outlined in the report.

The first reorganization pertains to the two flagship T2 laws: the Bayh-Dole Act and the Stevenson-Wydler Act. Talks to reconfigure this longstanding legislation began in January. To recap, the Bayh-Dole Act gave academia and nonprofits the ability to retain patent rights to their inventions supported by federal funding, and the Stevenson-Wydler Act facilitates lab-to-market T2 mechanisms. Feedback on the Green Paper suggested extending the authority of these laws to additional agencies and clarifying the government’s role in ensuring (or challenging) Bayh-Dole patent rights.

Four T2 mechanisms have also been discussed, including the Agreements for Commercializing Technology (ACT) pilot program, the conceptual Research Transaction Authority (RTA) to authorize certain defense R&D projects, the establishment of agencies’ R&D nonprofit foundations, and the Enhanced Use Lease Authority (EULA) to change how agencies enter into Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) with the private sector.

The Green Paper also promotes the importance of an entrepreneurial R&D workforce that can identify and implement initiatives to commercialize inventions. The report suggests widespread adoption of the NSF’s I-Corps program and DOE’s Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Program.

NIST Director Walter Copan, when speaking on the proposals outlined in this report, imagines “very good support from both sides of the aisle in this effort and tremendous support as well from the U.S. community of innovation.” Draft comments will be compiled by January 9, 2019.

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