Obama’s goal for research and development is 3% of our GDP:
I believe it is not in our American character to follow – but to lead. And it is time for us to lead once again. I am here today to set this goal: we will devote more than three percent of our GDP to research and development. We will not just meet, but we will exceed the level achieved at the height of the Space Race, through policies that invest in basic and applied research, create new incentives for private innovation, promote breakthroughs in energy and medicine, and improve education in math and science. This represents the largest commitment to scientific research and innovation in American history.
I’m not much for patriotism rah-rah but it’s hard not to get fired up about this. I found the rest of his speech remarkable as well, listing specific technologies that emerged from basic research, too often overlooked:
The Apollo program itself produced technologies that have improved kidney dialysis and water purification systems; sensors to test for hazardous gasses; energy-saving building materials; and fire-resistant fabrics used by firefighters and soldiers.
And the announcement of a new agency along the lines of DARPA:
And today, I am also announcing that for the first time, we are funding an initiative – recommended by this organization – called the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, or ARPA-E.
This is based on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as DARPA, which was created during the Eisenhower administration in response to Sputnik. It has been charged throughout its history with conducting high-risk, high-reward research. The precursor to the internet, known as ARPANET, stealth technology, and the Global Positioning System all owe a debt to the work of DARPA.
The speech, nearly 5000 words in total (did our former President spill that many words for science during eight years in office?) continues with more policy regarding research, investment, and education–all very exciting to read. But perhaps my most favorite line of all, when he said to the members of the National Academy of Sciences in attendance:
And so today I want to challenge you to use your love and knowledge of science to spark the same sense of wonder and excitement in a new generation.