Trump White House releases new R&D priorities list for 2020

The annual agency budgeting guidance outlines eight areas of interest, including artificial intelligence, quantum information science and drones.
White House
(White House / Flickr)

The White House released its annual research and development priorities memo Tuesday, indicating to agencies the kind of budgeting it would like to see in fiscal 2020.

“The United States is a nation of thinkers, inventors, and entrepreneurs,” reads the memo, signed by Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and Office of Science and Technology Policy lead Michael Kratsios. “Empowered by free-market capitalism and driven by bold ideas, Americans created an ecosystem of innovation that is the envy of the world, advancing science and technology and making the Nation prosperous and strong.”

The memo highlights eight central R&D areas: security of the American people; leadership in artificial intelligence, quantum information sciences, and strategic computing; connectivity and autonomy; manufacturing; space exploration and commercialization; energy dominance; medical innovation; and agriculture.

There are some perennial Trump administration tech favorites here — artificial intelligence, of course, for which the White House recently created a special Select Committee, but also drones, 5G wireless and veterans’ health.


There’s broad overlap with the five R&D priorities that the administration highlighted for fiscal 2019 — security, health and energy dominance were all cited in last year’s memo, too.

As is tradition, the memo also goes into R&D priority practices, or the “how” for investing in this research. Here, similarly to last year, the administration urges agencies to collaborate across the government, as well as with industry and academia, and look for opportunities for tech transfer.

“Agency budget proposals should prioritize and highlight lab-to-market initiatives, such as efforts to identify more efficient regulatory and administrative approaches to technology transfer, enhancements to small business innovation programs, entrepreneurial workforce development initiatives, and other programs that improve the transition of federally funded technologies from discovery to practical use,” the memo states.

Streamlining the transfer of federally funded research from the lab to the private sector market is one of the cross-agency priority goals associated with the President’s Management Agenda.

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