A Look at the Science-Related Portions of CHIPS+
Read more about the CHIPS-related portions of CHIPS+ here.
The CHIPS and Science Act was passed by Congress on July 28 and was signed into law by President Biden on August 9. While the funding for semiconductor-related incentives and research initiatives appropriated by Division A of the act have received significant media coverage, Division B authorizes around $200 billion in funding to support the United States’ science and innovation infrastructure. The National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Department of Energy (DOE) are set to receive significant increases in funding for a wide range of initiatives, from rural STEM education to manufacturing technology upgrades. Additionally, the Department of Commerce (DOC) is charged with designating 20 regional technology and innovation hubs across the country that will be tasked with spurring regional economic development and expanding access to the innovation economy among rural and micropolitan communities, as well as communities historically underrepresented in STEM. The bill also includes reauthorizations for NASA’s space program.
It is important to note that authorization is different from appropriation: Congress must still pass a budget every year that includes the funding authorized by this law. Assuming Congress does appropriate the money, the law provides a major boost to U.S. science- and innovation-based competitiveness going forward.
Q1: What does CHIPS+ mean for the NSF?
A1: The NSF is the primary beneficiary of the science bill. Founded in 1950, the NSF supports basic scientific research in nonmedical fields. The new law authorizes $81 billion over five years for the NSF—almost double its previous authorized budget of $36 billion—for the following key priorities:
The law includes measures to enhance STEM education across the U.S. at all levels—K-12, undergraduate, and graduate. It commissions a study to investigate barriers to more inclusive STEM education and directs funding to recruit and train additional STEM educators. It also provides more money for research grants, mentoring programs, and collecting STEM workforce data, while establishing a cyber workforce development initiative.
Broadening Participation in the U.S. Innovation Economy
Recognizing that the U.S. innovation economy is highly concentrated in a few clusters and regions, several measures are dedicated to diversifying participation in the innovation system. The law creates scholarships and awards for rural and underserved communities, includes several initiatives encouraging women and minority participation in STEM-related fields, and directs the NSF to expand the geographical and institutional diversity of the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCOR) by prioritizing rural communities in its award programs. It also establishes the position of chief diversity officer at the NSF to lead the organization’s diversity and inclusion efforts.
To address intellectual property theft from China, the law establishes an Office of Research Security with the aim of protecting the research integrity of any initiative funded by the NSF. Research security efforts within the NSF are authorized $6 million per year until 2027. However, the law does not include language from the proposed Safeguarding American Innovation Act that would have heightened immigration restrictions on foreign-born researchers, among other actions. Congressional Republicans had pushed for inclusion of these provisions but were ultimately unsuccessful.
Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP)
The TIP is a new NSF directorate focused on “translational research,” or turning basic research into applied solutions. The directorate will focus on technology transfer from universities to the private sector, but will also support scholarships, fellowships, and STEM research in 10 “key technology focus areas,” a category that includes artificial intelligence (AI), semiconductors, and quantum, among others.
Miscellaneous Research Initiatives
The law funds a variety of other scientific research programs through the NSF, including initiatives related to climate change, food and water security, disaster management, societal resilience, AI, and critical minerals.
Q2: What does CHIPS+ mean for NIST?
A2: The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) will see its authorized budget double from $5 billion over five years to almost $10 billion. Much of the funding will go towards measurement research—a broad category that includes initiatives from engineering biology programs to greenhouse gas monitoring to cybersecurity. Biometrics research and AI safety fall under this umbrella as well.
The law also encourages small businesses, universities, and nonprofits to take part in the standards-setting process and standards development organizations (SDOs). A “standard” is a collection of technical specifications developed by leading engineers from around the world that promotes global coordination of R&D to ensure interoperability. Traditionally, the United States has led in standard development, but is increasingly facing competition from China in this area. The inclusion of several standards-related provisions suggests Congress is beginning to take standards-setting seriously.
Furthermore, the law authorizes a major expansion of the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP). The Hollings MEP is a network of centers around the country designed to assist small- and medium-sized manufacturers in upgrading technologies and improving processes. The expansion of the MEP underscores Congress’s commitment to broadening the reach of the U.S. innovation system.
Finally, NIST’s Manufacturing USA program—charged with providing general support to America’s manufacturing ecosystem—will see its funding increase from $744 million to $829 million and will be directed to consider geographical diversity in all its initiatives and increase participation from minority-serving institutions.
Q3: What aspects of the DOE are affected by the law?
A3: Under Division B, the DOE will see its authorized budget increase from $30.5 billion (over five years) to $67.5 billion. Approximately 75 percent of the new funds will be invested in DOE's Office of Science, a fourfold increase from 2023 to 2027. The rest of the funding will be invested in other science and innovation programs.
The DOE's Office of Science conducts extensive basic research and currently operates 10 National Laboratories across the United States. The CHIPS and Science Act provides resources that will allow DOE's Office of Science to expand its research portfolio.
The law will fund 13 programs for future basic science research and development. This includes support for R&D investments in future technologies such as advanced scientific computing research, fusion energy research, and accelerator research and development. The Advanced Scientific Computing Research Program has now authorized over $1 billion per year over five years to research computer science and mathematics, create a quantum network infrastructure, and facilitate access to quantum computing throughout the United States.
In addition to funding for basic science research, the CHIPS and Science Act also includes authorizations for updating DOE National Laboratories, expanding EPSCoR, and creating a program to build partnerships between National Laboratories and students and researchers in an effort to expand the research pipeline.
The act also addresses regional economic development and technology transfer through energy-related research and development. It will support clean energy technology innovations undertaken by one or more regional groups in the U.S. with the goal of fostering economic development in diverse regions of the United States. Among other initiatives, the DOE is directed to establish a public-private partnership framework called the Foundation for Energy Security and Innovation (FESI) to facilitate private sector funding, public-private idea sharing, and workforce development.
Q4: What is the Regional Technology and Innovation Hub program?
A4: In the United States today, a significant portion of innovative activity and high-tech infrastructure and resources are concentrated in a handful of large metropolitan areas, including Silicon Valley, New York City, Boston, and Seattle. Within existing innovation clusters, the demographics of those participating in the innovation economy skew heavily white and male. Acknowledging the need for broader participation in the U.S. innovation economy, Congress has authorized $10 billion within Division B to carry out a Regional Technology and Innovation Hub program through the DOC.
The legislation calls on the DOC to designate no less than 20 “regional technology and innovation hubs,” which are public-private consortiums made up of universities, economic development organizations, industry, rural communities, state and local governments, and nonprofits concentrated within a geographic area. The legislation includes language that ensures the geographic distribution of these hubs, with minimum requirements for designating hubs in every Economic Development Administration (EDA) region, and with priorities for low-population and predominantly rural states. In awarding grants for the development and implementation of regional innovation strategies, the DOC will carry out a competitive, merit-reviewed process, accepting applications from eligible consortia explaining how hubs will work to transform the area they serve into a locus for innovation and technological development.
The Regional Technology and Innovation Hub Program included in the CHIPS and Science Act is particularly notable in that it prioritizes the inclusion of underserved communities and groups historically underrepresented in STEM fields, including women, people of color, and Indigenous communities.
Q5: What does CHIPS+ mean for NASA?
A5: The CHIPS and Science Act includes a reauthorization of the NASA space program. While the program receives no increase in funding, it is the first NASA reauthorization in over five years. The law extends U.S. participation in the International Space Station until 2030 and expresses congressional support for a return to the moon and human exploration of Mars.
Overall, Division B of the CHIPS and Science Act represents a significant commitment to renewing the nation’s research and innovation system. The NSF, NIST, DOE, and DOC all are set to receive significant funding increases for STEM education, public-private partnerships, basic research, and workforce diversity efforts—contingent on follow-through appropriations by Congress.
Sujai Shivakumar is director and senior fellow of the Renewing American Innovation Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. Hideki Uno is an intern with the CSIS Renewing American Innovation Project. Benjamin Glanz is an intern with the CSIS Renewing American Innovation Project. Gregory Arcuri is a research assistant with the CSIS Renewing American Innovation Project.
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