Opinion: CHIPS and Science Is Just the Start – Inside Sources

The CHIPS and Science Act is a result of something exciting on Capitol Hill: a productive discussion about the next generation of American research that prioritizes investment in science. In addition to the $54 billion for semiconductor innovation, manufacturing, and research and development, it is thrilling to see a bipartisan majority in Congress step up to support five-year authorizations for research agencies totaling nearly $170 billion.

While this bicameral, bipartisan effort is momentous, it must be the first step. These authorizations clarify how Congress should provide steady and predictable increases for research agencies through the annual appropriations process and the new money necessary to launch the many exciting programs the CHIPS and Science Act creates. This blueprint for future spending can build on recent investments and the strong foundation in the American research enterprise.

One need only look to the exciting research at universities nationwide, conducted in partnership with federal agencies, for a glimpse at the innovation potential if Congress fulfills this legislation’s promise.

True to the bill’s spirit, professor Suman Datta at the University of Notre Dame is spearheading the Applications and Systems-driven Center for Energy-Efficient integrated Nano Technologies project, a multi-university semiconductor research center pioneering future computing systems for commercial and defense applications. The work, which has entered its fifth and final year, was jointly funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and Semiconductor Research Corporation, a consortium of major semiconductor companies. It’s a classic example of the tremendous strides we can make jointly with the private sector on mission-critical issues when there’s enough federal funding to get them off the ground.

At Stony Brook University, researchers funded by the National Science Foundation and the Air Force Research Laboratory have teamed up with the Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Lab to create a “quantum internet.” Their priority currently is entangling digital bits in a network so information can be transferred seamlessly between standard and quantum computers. If they are successful and can replicate the process over greater distances, their work could completely revolutionize information technology — a core goal of Congress’ quantum priorities.

Harvard University’s Matteo Mitrano is also working on quantum through the Harvard Quantum Initiative. The center is studying light-induced phenomena in electron systems, paving the way for future quantum technologies. Additional funding from the CHIPS and Science Act would support young talent while actualizing our potential in these new fields — two essential components to our future competitiveness.

There’s a similar case at Rochester Institute of Technology, where Amlan Ganguly received an NSF planning grant in collaboration with UC Irvine to develop a Center for Smart Spaces Research. A complete proposal has been submitted to the NSF; if funded, this would launch the Center for Smart Spaces Research, a multi-university research center aimed at creating smart spaces. Smart spaces are “characterized by the presence of smart services built on emerging sensing, computing, and communication technologies.” 

Ganguly is mainly focused on applying the center’s findings to real-life, sustainable spaces that enhance public health, conserve energy and improve quality of life.

The bill also makes provisions to accelerate emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and data science, that will define U.S. competitiveness in the future — two areas researchers at UC Irvine have uniquely combined with neuroscience. Backed by funding from NSF and the National Institutes of Health, researchers in the Fortin Lab are using machine learning to process and analyze data to understand how the brain organizes memories and how cognitive disorders affect the brain’s ability to do so. 

Further, the tools and methodologies the lab has developed can be applied across various research fields. Babak Shahbaba, who co-led the study, also noted, “We are training the next generation of scientists, who have the required skills to conduct interdisciplinary research.”

Clearly, our researchers are ready to tackle tomorrow’s problems now, counting on robust appropriations to help them achieve the exceptional goals outlined in the CHIPS and Science Act without delay or detriment. We are grateful to Congress for this remarkable breakthrough, but we know too well that the growing prospect of continuing resolutions and a failure to appropriate increased funding for research agencies threatens the promise of this exciting opportunity.

Congress must finish its work as quickly as possible and write the next chapter of American innovation. Our future depends on writing it well.

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