Endless Frontier Act Introduced

April 23, 2021

Earlier this week, a bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives led by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senator Todd Young (R-IN), Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA), and Representative Mike Gallagher (R-WI) reintroduced the bipartisan Endless Frontier Act (EFA). The stated goal of the bill is “to advance and solidify the United States’ leadership in scientific and technological innovation through increased investments in the discovery, creation, and manufacturing of technology critical to U.S. national security and economic competitiveness.” 

Possible Timeline:

Endless Frontier Act Summary

 Top-Line Funding Levels

  • $110 billion over 5 years (FY22-26)
    • $100 billion for the newly created National Science Foundation Technology and Innovation Directorate 
    • $10 billion for Regional Technology Hubs
    • such sums for the Supply Chain Resiliency Program 

 Establishes National Science Foundation (NSF) Technology and Innovation Directorate 

  • Conducts research and technology development in 10 key technology focus areas such as Artificial Intelligence, Quantum, Materials Science, Robotics, etc. 
  • Goals of addressing economic competitiveness and strengthening leadership in the top 10 technologies 
  • Uses DARPA-like authorities for hiring and program management
  • Includes coordination with DOE, NIST, and National Labs
  • Makes awards to universities, nonprofits, and university-led consortia
  • Funds other NSF Directorates 
  • Funds scholarships & fellowships
  • Funds cannot be used for construction
  • The new Directorate is included in the President’s 2022 Budget Proposal and infrastructure plan 

Tech Directorate Program:  University Technology Centers (UTCs)

  • University-led consortia 
  • Perform all functions from basic research to commercialization in key technology focus areas
  • Receives 35% of Tech Directorate funds 

Tech Directorate Program:  Laboratory-to-Market Program

  • University-focused 
  • Build capacity, facilitate industry relationships, and train scientists 
  • Help bring university research to market
  • Receives 5% of funds 

Tech Directorate Program:  Test Bed Program

  • University-led
  • Build and operate test beds and fabrication facilities 
  • 7-year awards with potential 5-year extensions
  • Receives 10% of funds 

Tech Directorate Program: Scholarships 

  • Provide scholarships, fellowships, traineeships to students in the top 10 technologies 
  • Broadens participations to underrepresented populations 
  • Receives 15% of funds of which 20% would be set-aside for EPSCoR states

Tech Directorate Program:  Emerging Research Institution 

  • 5-year pilot program
  • Build research and education capacity at “emerging research institutions”
  • Grants can fund everything from faculty salaries to “research experiences”
  • Emerging research institutions receive less than $35 million 

Establishes an Office of Science and Technology Strategy and Report on Economic Security and Innovation 

Establishes a Department of Commerce Supply Chain Resiliency Program

  • Run by the Department of Commerce
    • Build resilient and secure supply chains in the U.S. and allied countries for economic and national security
    • Coordinate Federal government efforts in responding to “supply chain crises”
    • Identify supply chain gaps and vulnerabilities and invest in urgent gaps
    • Support “distribution” of “critical resources” in a crisis 
    • Ensure allies and partners have supply chain capable of “supporting critical industries”
    • Requires Secretary to carry out the CHIPS Act semiconductor incentive program.
    • Authorizes “such sums” as necessary for the Program.   
  • Industrial Review of Supply Chain Resiliency and Domestic Manufacturing
    • Biennial interagency review of supply chain gaps and weaknesses

Establishes the Regional Tech Hub Program at Department of Commerce

  • Run by DOC, not managed by NSF.  
  • Requires Secretary to designate 10-15 RTHs over 5-years (with a $10 billion authorization, these hubs could be billion-dollar awards).
  • RTHs will support regional economic development by conducting the following activities:
    • Workforce training
    • infrastructure development
    • Regional economic strategy development
    • Attract new investment
    • Further technology research, development, and manufacturing.
  • Provides additional grants to consortia for regional technology strategies. 
  • Eligible consortia include a university, local government, state government. representative, economic development organization, company, and labor union.
    • Requires that at least 5 consortia include at least one EPSCOR state.
  • Requires coordination with the Department of Energy (National Laboratories) and the NIST Manufacturing USA Institutes and Manufacturing Extension Partnerships.

OSTP Coordination 

  • Requires OSTP to coordinate the activities under the bill.  Does not specify how such coordination might occur.

Person or Entity of Concern Prohibition 

  • Prohibits Communist Chinese military companies from receiving or participating in an award under the bill.