The Senate has approved, by a 68-32 vote, the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 (USICA). The package, aimed at countering China's scientific and economic aspirations, includes the Endless Frontiers Act (EFA).
The EFA has been discussed and altered since first introduced last Congress. The latest version would establish a Directorate for Technology and Innovation at the National Science Foundation. The legislation authorizes $120 billion over five years largely for the NSF ($81 billion), Department of Energy ($16.9 billion), National Aeronautics and Space Administration ($10 billion), Department of Commerce regional technology hubs ($8 billion) and existing manufacturing programs ($3.6 billion). Within the NSF authorization is $52 billion for existing basic research functions and $29 billion for the new tech directorate. The new directorate will focus on 10 key technology areas that include artificial intelligence, advanced computing, robotics and automation, natural disaster prevention or mitigation, advanced communications, biotechnology, data storage and management, advanced energy, advanced materials science, and innovation methods.
The bill also contains provisions to promote research security, including new penalties for failure to disclose outside compensation.
A companion bill must pass the House and then be reconciled with the Senate prior to final votes and approval by President Biden. The House and president are expected to support some version of the Senate's bill.
What research groups are saying: