From the cotton gin to the mobile phone, the U.S. has produced some of the most useful inventions of the past three centuries. Yet by several measures, its traditional leadership in science and technology is now under threat. As Joe Biden’s administration gets underway, reviving American ingenuity should be among his top priorities.
As a start, Biden should push to raise government investment in research and development. Federally funded research has been a crucial component of America’s scientific success, helping to produce everything from GPS to search engines to the internet itself. In recent years, almost one-third of patents granted have relied on it. Yet federal R&D spending as a share of GDP has stagnated at about 0.7% over the past three years, down from a historical average of 1.1%.