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The Senate passed bipartisan legislation Tuesday that would authorize billions of dollars in funding for technology research in the United States, much of which would be available for institutions of higher education.

If the U.S. Innovation and Competitiveness Act -- intended to help the U.S. better compete with China -- passes the House as is, the National Science Foundation would receive $81 billion over five years, beginning in fiscal year 2022. The bill is largely centered around “key technology focus areas,” which include artificial intelligence, advanced computing, robotics and automation, natural disaster prevention or mitigation, biotechnology and data storage and management.

The allocated funds that would be available for higher education include:

  • $9.6 billion for university technology centers: The NSF would establish a competitive award program for institutions to create technology centers that conduct research in one of the key technology focus areas. The centers are expected to be multi-disciplinary and multi-sector.
  • $5.2 billion for scholarships and fellowships: Scholarships would be available for community college students, undergraduates, graduate fellowships and postdoctoral awards for those studying in the key technology focus areas. The scholarships would be awarded both directly to students and to colleges and universities. The bill directs the foundation to take actions that increase the participation of underrepresented populations in STEM fields, such as targeting programs to those populations, supporting traineeships at minority-serving institutions and increasing educational capacity at institutions.
  • $4.4 billion for research and development: Competitive research grants would be available for colleges and universities to research “revolutionary technological advances” in the legislation’s focus areas.
  • $4.1 billion for academic technology transfer: Institutions would be eligible for awards to enable the transition of research results to developed and commercialized technologies within one of the focus areas.
  • $2.9 billion for test beds: Competitive grants would be awarded to institutions for establishing and operating test beds that advance the development, operation, integration and deployment of innovative technologies in one or more of the focus areas.