A Foundational Technology Development and Deployment Office to Create Jobs

Authors: Katie Rae, Michael Kearney, Orin Hoffman


The history of the United States is replete with examples of how foundational new technologies can transform the economy and create jobs. From the automobile to the transistor to recombinant DNA, foundational technologies have enabled an expanding middle class and prosperity for millions of Americans. The federal government played a vital role in providing and enabling early market development and applications for these technologies. The United States must rededicate itself to promoting new technologies beyond the research and development phase, if it is to maintain a position of global economic leadership and successful transition to the 21st century economy.

The U.S. government should create a Foundational Technology Development and Deployment Office within the Department of Commerce that retains flexible financing authority to support market-pull programs for early-stage commercialization of innovative firms. An annual $50 billion authorization, for five years, would spark nascent strategic industries (e.g., new energy production and distribution, advanced manufacturing, synthetic biology, materials, robotics, mobility, space exploration, and next-generation semiconductors), and would be critical to transitioning the U.S. workforce for the 21st century economy. With the success of such an office, the U.S. will cement itself as the global locus of frontier technology industries. The country could also ensure that the economic spillovers from innovation are distributed more equally across socio-economic groups, through the creation of more domestic, advanced manufacturing that creates middle-skill jobs.

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About the Authors

Katie Rae serves as the CEO & Managing Partner of The Engine, a venture capital fund built by MIT, that invests in early-stage companies solving the world’s biggest problems through the convergence of breakthrough science, engineering and leadership. She serves as a Board Member at Commonwealth Fusion Systems, Form Energy, Via Separations, and Lilac Solutions. Katie has advised hundreds of founders and invested in over 100 companies. She holds an MBA from Yale and BA in Biology from Oberlin College.

Michael Kearney is a Senior Associate at The Engine, where he brings over a decade of operational and research experience in commercializing energy technology. Michael’s background combines training in economics and systems engineering with expertise in energy technology, market development and operational experience as an entrepreneur. Michael holds a Ph.D. from MIT Sloan School of Management, where his research focused on frictions in the commercialization of science, regulatory barriers to innovation and entrepreneurial strategy. Previously, he was the first employee at a clean-tech startup called Ambri, where he led business development efforts for five years, working with customers across the United States. Michael received an M.S. in Technology and Policy from MIT and a B.A. in Mathematics and Political Science from Williams College.

Orin Hoffman is a Venture Partner on the investment team at The Engine. In addition to investment responsibilities, Orin leads The Engine’s government affairs team which is dedicated to reducing friction for the frontier technology ecosystem to engage with government. In this capacity, Orin serves on multiple congressional, industry, and other government initiatives. Orin was most recently a senior government civilian at the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) where he served in both investment and CTO roles. Prior to DIUx, Orin spun out and served as Chief Technologist at Endeavor Robotics, which was later acquired by FLIR systems. Orin started his career in R&D at iRobot, where he led the development and deployment of robotic systems to various disaster and conflict responses. Orin holds BA and MS degrees in physics and electrical computer engineering as well as several patents.