The U.S. government has identified artificial intelligence (AI), quantum information science (QIS), 5G networks, advanced manufacturing, and biotechnology as the five “Industries of the Future (ITF)”: key technological domains projected to have the greatest impact on advancing national competitiveness in the coming years. Sustained investment in the ITF is crucial to preserving national security, improving American healthcare, advancing towards a green economy, and achieving other societal priorities. Continued progress in the ITF is also necessary for the United States to stay ahead of global economic competitors such as China and the European Union.
However, the United States currently lacks the robust science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workforce needed for maintaining ITF leadership. Systemic inequities in the U.S. STEM talent pipeline hinder development of the deep scientific and technological expertise needed for U.S. workers to realize the full potential of the ITF. To address these inequities, the federal government must leverage and invest in its strongest vehicle of American scientific talent: the National Science Foundation (NSF).
By expanding its Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP), the NSF can help build a scientific and technical workforce that fully reflects American diversity and captures the full value that such diversity offers. The result will be a nation in which more students—including the socioeconomically disadvantaged, minorities, women, and those far-removed from academia—have the skills and opportunities to contribute to the Industries of the Future.