In his comments on the new CHIPS and Science Act, President Joe Biden said, “We’re going to support entrepreneurs and technology hubs across the country, including historically black colleges and universities, minority-serving institutions, tribal colleges. We are going to take advantage of the biggest competitive advantage we have: our diverse and talented workforce in cities, towns and suburbs.”
The president’s remarks underscored an important but understated focus of the legislation — expanding opportunities for Americans who have historically been excluded from the science and technology industry. These advances could become revolutionary for many American inventors.
The CHIPS and Science Act directly addresses barriers typically faced by those historically excluded from science and technology by expanding access to education and skills development. It also goes beyond the “conveyor belt problem” by addressing systemic barriers to underrepresented founders, such as access to capital, fiduciary duties, harassment and discrimination. Although these aspects have not received as much attention as the law’s historical investment in domestic chip production, the “science” part of the new law will lead to significant social and economic progress.
More inventors like Dr. Maria Artunduaga, founder of Respira Labs, will be able to see their inventions come to life thanks to the robust implementation of CHIPS and Science. Artunduaga is a doctor-scientist turned inventor-entrepreneur. After her grandmother died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Artunduaga left clinical medicine to find a solution to prevent similar deaths. She participated in the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-Corps) and received grant funding to advance the use of sound to monitor lung function and detect respiratory problems before they become life-threatening. With COPD being the third leading cause of death in the United States, Artunduag’s invention could change the lives of millions of people.
The new law will also help inventors like Kathryn Jean. A university design assignment to fight Ebola and a visit to West Africa to meet health workers firsthand led Jin and two of his colleagues to invent Highlight, an additive that temporarily colors disinfectants made with bleach so users can ensure they are properly treated the contaminated surface. Together, Jin and her co-founders, Jason Kang and Kevin Tiang, launched Kinnos to empower people to disinfect surfaces with confidence and provide the public with peace of mind through visible disinfection.
CHIPS and Science is an investment in the ingenuity of inventors like Dr. Artunduaga and Gene. The legislation is the most comprehensive effort in history to create opportunities in science and technology for women, people of color and other underrepresented groups. Including equity and opportunity provisions, such as expanding access to funding for STEM research and education, and ensuring that people of color and other underrepresented groups have information about these opportunities, represents an important shift in thinking. It recognizes that America can maintain its leadership in global technology only if we fully utilize American talent and ingenuity.
The CHIPS and Science Act represents a sea change in American innovation policy, and robust implementation of this law will help ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to fully participate in the innovation ecosystem. Another important initiative is the Inclusive Innovation Council, a body led by Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo that is developing a national strategy for expanding participation in innovation. Congress and the administration must also expand data collection and sharing to increase the available information about the diversity of our inventors. Before the end of the year, Congress must pass and the president sign IDEA, which would require the US Patent and Trademark Office to collect demographic data on inventors on a voluntary basis and make that data available for research.
Essentially, the CHIPS and Science Act will help America compete — and win — on the global stage. Politicians understand that prioritizing justice is key to building such a future.
Funding and fully implementing the provisions of the CHIPS Act and the Science of Equity and Opportunity Act, as well as advancing other policies to increase participation in American innovation, will help empower the next generation of American inventors and entrepreneurs and allow our country to remain a global technology superpower. .
Holly Fechner is the executive director of Invent Together, an alliance of universities, nonprofits, companies, individuals, and other stakeholders committed to closing the diversity gap in invention and patenting.