DC Dispatch

T2 Touchpoint —August 22, 2018

Published biweekly as part of the FLC’s DC Perspective news content, T2 Touchpoint gathers updates from inside and around the technology transfer (T2) community. News is collected from agency publications, news sites, and DC-central organizations, with original sources, contacts, and links provided in addition to our streamlined synopses. For more information and Touchpoint-related inquiries, please contact dcnews@federallabs.org.

Budget Bulletin

FY 2019 NDAA Signed into Law

Earlier this month, President Trump signed into law the approved version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year (FY) 2019. We reported on an earlier version of the bill in May. The final version of this year’s NDAA retains the provision we highlighted earlier this year, which seeks to lessen foreign intervention in U.S. research and development (R&D). Other T2-relevant provisions include the following.

  • Technological advancement opportunities. Under the guidance of Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin, the Department of Defense (DoD) will begin to articulate its overarching science and technology (S&T) strategy, identify its capabilities in emerging technology areas, reauthorize the Rapid Innovation Program, and spearhead rapid advancement in quantum information science (QIS).
  • Laboratory collaboration programs. This year’s NDAA authorizes the creation of an open campus program which, like its related arm at the Army Research Laboratory, encourages fundamental research collaboration across several mission-critical areas. Collaboration is also encouraged with universities, with partnerships authorized through 2022, as well as a nonprofit entity (budgeted at $75 million in funding) to establish DoD’s interaction with industry and academia. Surprisingly, a Senate proposal to permanently authorize DoD’s Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) was not honored.
  • Other Transaction Authority (OTA). The NDAA also required the collection of data on the use of "other transactions" by service acquisition executives of the various military departments and the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment.  This data will be used to update policy and guidance related to the use of OTA.  Based on this data collection, the Secretary of Defense will submit annual reports summarizing the data and discussing the successes and challenges of OTA, which has significantly grown in usage as a T2 mechanism over the past few years.

The full text of the NDAA for FY 2019 is available here.


Policy Pulse

International Spotlight: Horizon Europe Establishes New R&D Program for the European Union

Earlier this summer, the European Union (EU) and European Commission published a proposal establishing Horizon Europe, a $113 billion program outlining cross-national R&D frameworks from 2021 to 2027. The EU is piloting Horizon Europe to promote the concept of open science, which we previously reported as the vision of “a research landscape where all publicly funded research items (e.g., scholarly articles, code, algorithms, etc.) are made findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR) to the public, provided the release of these items poses no threat to privacy, trade secrets, or national security.” The other two pillars of Horizon Europe were defined in July by EU Commissioner for Research, Science, and Innovation Carlos Moedas as open innovation and global challenges. Like open science, open innovation places scientists and other inventors into a new social contract, which upholds the idea that a taxpayer has a right to access public information. This follows a 2016 meeting in Brussels that advocated open access by 2020, a goal that is impossible without “radical and robust measures” such as this Horizon proposal. (Another measure includes the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC), which champions FAIR information online.)

Under Horizon Europe, the $113 billion of funding would allocate $29 billion to open science, particularly fundamental research being undertaken by the European Research Council. $16 billion would finance open innovation, as well as a new European Innovation Council to spearhead lab-to-market technology transfer. The final pillar, global challenges, would receive the bulk of the funding—$61 billion—to apply R&D to address worldwide issues like climate change and public health.

More information on Horizon Europe and Commissioner Moedas’ remarks from this year’s EuroScience Open Forum is available here, and the full Horizon proposal can be found here.

Career and Technical Education (CTE) Program Receives STEM-Heavy Policy Update

President Trump recently authorized an update of the Department of Education’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, which is currently valued at $1.2 billion. The new version of the program, which began in 1984 and received its latest update in 2006, authorizes support for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and ramps up funding to $1.3 billion in FY 2024.

The CTE program allows states to use federal funds to engage STEM education programs, particularly in underrepresented areas. This new version authorizes an Innovation and Modernization grant program to ready a workforce for STEM-related challenges and advancements. These grants are currently valued at $7 million, but discussions are being held to increase the budget to $20 million to encourage the integration of STEM subjects into CTE curriculums. In addition, an executive order issued by Trump last month complements this revised law. The order creates a National Council for the American Worker to foster educational opportunities to combat a skills crisis and update a stagnant workforce culture.

The full legislative update is available here.


Agency Activities

NASA Planetary Science Agenda Reviewed by National Academies in Midterm Assessment

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) recently concluded its midterm assessment of Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022. This report—rewritten and published every decade—prioritizes high-level guidance for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Planetary Science division. Vision and Voyages was centered around several exploratory missions that would accelerate discoveries about the solar system, as well as reorganize R&D decisions within the division.

In a press release, the Academies released several recommendations to improve the course charted by the initial report. (These were also published last year in a report titled Getting Ready for the Next Planetary Science Decadal Survey, but were also summarized in the midterm assessment. Getting Ready also recommended that NASA sponsor 8 to 10 mission concept studies that would define and enable division-wide science objectives.) These recommendations include the following:

  • Reevaluating the schedule, costs, and scope for both the Europa Clipper and the Mars Exploration Program. The Europa Clipper—which concerns an orbital mission around Jupiter’s moon Europa—has received congressional backing for a second lander mission to find evidence of water on Europa, but the midterm assessment believes such an additional venture would not be cost-appropriate.
  • Eliminating the recently introduced Ocean Worlds program. NASA introduced Ocean Worlds missions in 2016 to explore water sources on other planets to discover extraterrestrial life. However, as Vision and Voyages was published in 2013, new mission introductions should be shelved until the next decadal survey. (With that said, NASEM also recognizes that critical planetary science discoveries may and can exist outside the timeframe allotted in these reports.)

For more information, the entirety of each report discussed here can be reviewed online in full, including the NASEM midterm assessment, the 2013-2022 decadal survey, and last year’s roadmap for the next decadal survey.

NSF Begins Work on First Quantum Computer

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently secured a $15 million grant, as part of a multi-institution quantum research collaboration, to begin work on the Foundation’s first quantum computer. Over the next five years, the Software-Tailored Architecture for Quantum Co-design (STAQ) project will unite physicists, computer scientists, and engineers to construct a quantum computer core, educational tools, and a trained quantum information workforce. This project is supported by the Division of Physics in the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences, the Division of Computing and Communication Foundations in the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering, and the Division of Electrical, Communications and Cyber Systems in the Directorate for Engineering.

STAQ researchers will be continuing the work highlighted in the NSF Ideas Lab, which focused on the Practical Fully-Connected Quantum Computer challenge, which sought to develop quantum computing technology that can solve a challenging equation. STAQ is aligned with NSF’s 10 Big Ideas, which can be reviewed in full here.

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DC Dispatch