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House Bill

“The San Diego tech community is closely watching a federal appropriations bill that could mean billions of dollars for information technology research.

Why the keen interest? The region is expected to benefit from research dollars going to UCSD.

The Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Act (HR-2086), would authorize nearly $4.8 billion over the next five years for IT research.

Federal agencies receiving the funding would include the National Science Foundation, NASA, the Department of Energy, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The $4.8 billion would be a 92 percent funding increase for these agencies.

The money will go toward grants for high-end computing, software and networking research, IT research centers, university internship programs, educational technology research, and completion of the Next Generation Internet program.

HR-2086 also makes the federal research and development tax credit program permanent, and requires the National Science Foundation to report to Congress on the availability of encryption in foreign countries.

The bill, which has already passed the House Science Committee, is awaiting House floor action.

Unexpected Growth


The bill’s author, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, recently came to San Diego to meet with local tech leaders.

“Nobody could have predicted in 1990 what the IT sector would be like in 1999,” said Sensenbrenner, also chair of the House Science Committee.

He said fundamental information technology research has played an essential role in fueling the information revolution and creating new industries and millions of new, high-paying jobs.

“But maintaining the nation’s global leadership in information technology requires keeping open the pipeline of new ideas, technologies and innovations that flow from fundamental research,” Sensenbrenner said.

“Although the private sector provides the lion’s share of the research funding, its spending tends to focus on short-term, applied work.”

Industry Support


Bill Bold, vice president of government affairs for Qualcomm, Inc., one of San Diego’s largest telecommunications companies, agreed the federal government must step up efforts to support IT research.

“I think Mr. Sensenbrenner’s bill, which Qualcomm supports, is addressing a funding need that industry is really not positioned to address,” he said. “What we think is critically important to not only Qualcomm’s future competitiveness but also America’s future competitiveness in information technology is to make the long-term investments in basic research that will eventually transfer (into the commercial sector).”

Bold said tech companies must keep an open dialogue with lawmakers in Washington, D.C., in order to protect America’s high-tech future. For example, he said, Qualcomm co-founder and vice chairman Andrew Viterbi is a member of the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee, which focuses on issues like IT research.

“It’s interesting to law makers when university officials come in and ask for more research funding. It’s a new angle when companies come in and ask for more funding,” Bold said.

He said additional IT funding would also help attract top researchers and IT workers to San Diego.

Competition


While UCSD’s Super Computer Center is poised to net some of the $4.8 billion in IT research, the university must compete for the funding. The University of Illinois is the only other American university that has a Super Computer Center.

Ed Furtek, associate vice chancellor for Science and Technology Policy and Projects for UCSD, is excited about the possibilities.

“The bill looks at the applications of information technology that will enable scientists and engineers to accelerate the pace of discoveries in their fields, such as neurosciences, bioengineering and the study of climate change.”

Furtek added the bill would also fuel technology transfer.

“In terms of industry, I think it really accelerates change and growth of our communications sector, which involves super computing, software development and networking. Across a whole array of technology clusters, this is going to accelerate the phase of innovation and expand the scope of the market.”

More information on HR-2086 can be found at (www.house.gov/science) or (www.house.gov/sensenbrenner).

IT Funding:


‘Nobody could have predicted in 1990 what the IT sector would be like in 1999.’


Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin

Chair, House Science Committee”


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