Series Examines CHIPS and Science Act Potential and Challenges

| Fall 2022

Doug Calidas superimposed against iridescent computer chips.

Doug Calidas

This fall, the Technology and Public Purpose (TAPP) Project hosted a six part study group led by Doug Calidas, Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar and TAPP non-resident fellow, titled “Policy for the Endless Frontier: Origins and Ambitions for the CHIPS and Science Act.”

Throughout the six sessions, Calidas – with the help of more than 25 key congressional staffers, scientists and technologists, and U.S.-China experts – explored one primary question: Is the CHIPS and Science Act a one-time bill that attempts to bolster U.S. competitiveness in science and technology (S&T), or is it the beginning of a new era in federal S&T policy to strengthen America’s economy and global standing?

The study group brought in 110 students and fellows from the greater Harvard community, including Harvard Kennedy School, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the School of Public Health, Harvard Law School. Expert panels included staffers from a number of the Congressional offices that played central roles in drafting and passing the landmark legislation. 

Key themes/takeaways from the sessions:

1. There is broad bipartisan appetite for a national strategy in the U.S.-China competition. The CHIPS and Science Act is an example of a coordinated effort to invest in domestic capacity, but congressional conversations have not stopped at this bill. There is support on both sides of the aisle to ensure the U.S. has the domestic infrastructure, including manufacturing, innovation hubs, and workforce, to advance science and technology in the United States.

“It remains to be seen whether the new law represents a sea change... or is best viewed as a one-off phenomenon.”

– Doug Calidas

2. Authorizations are not appropriations. The money behind CHIPS is still not guaranteed, and continued support inside (and outside) of Congress is necessary over the next several years to ensure the resources and capital are allocated in full.

3. The real work is just beginning. Whether America’s CHIPS investment pans out will depend on the ability of several federal departments, but primarily Department of Commerce, to execute and spend effectively. Legislation provides the blueprint and resources; the public and private sector need to coordinate to ensure the goals of CHIPS and Science are realized. Additionally, there are still some important outstanding questions on collaboration with allies, the role of the government in commercialization pathways, trade agreements and export controls, and the fundamental agility of domestic infrastructure investments to ensure they are nimble in the ever-evolving landscape of translational science and technology. 

“The legislative history of the CHIPS and Science Act is a fascinating case study in how recent shifts in political coalitions and the emergence of China as a geopolitical rival impelled Congress to overhaul our nation’s approach toward funding technology research and high-tech manufacturing,” Doug Calides said. “In this study group, we examined the byzantine legislative history of the law, which took a full two years to pass both chambers of Congress and almost singlehandedly rehabilitated the once-pejorative term ‘industrial policy.’”

“While the challenges to the United States’ dominance of high-tech industries that galvanized support for this law are not going away,” Calides added, “it remains to be seen whether the new law represents a sea change in the way the federal government supports technology research and manufacturing or is best viewed as a one-off phenomenon that is unlikely to be repeated.”

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:

Jayanti, Amritha. “Series Examines CHIPS and Science Act Potential and Challenges.” Belfer Center Newsletter, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. (Fall 2022).

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