About ITIF: A Champion for Innovation
As technological innovation transforms economies and societies, policymakers often lack the specialized knowledge to objectively analyze and respond to fast-moving issues and circumstances—particularly when the innovation disrupts incumbents or sparks fears and organized pressure limits progress or change. What should policymakers do to spur innovation, overcome challenges, and avoid potential pitfalls? The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) exists to provide answers and point the way forward.
Founded in 2006, ITIF is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute that has been recognized repeatedly as the world’s leading think tank for science and technology policy. Its supporters include corporations, charitable foundations, and individual contributors, and it has regularly earned a seal of transparency from Candid.
ITIF’s mission is to formulate, evaluate, and promote policy solutions that accelerate innovation and boost productivity to spur growth, opportunity, and progress. ITIF’s goal is to provide policymakers around the world with high-quality information, analysis, and actionable recommendations they can trust. To that end, ITIF adheres to a high standard of research integrity with an internal code of ethics grounded in analytical rigor, original thinking, policy pragmatism, and editorial independence.
Issue Focus and Policy Engagement
ITIF focuses on a host of critical issues at the intersection of technological innovation and public policy—including economic issues related to innovation, productivity, and competitiveness; technology issues in the areas of information technology and data, broadband telecommunications, advanced manufacturing, life sciences, and clean energy; and overarching policy tools related to public investment, regulation, taxes, and trade.
We engage in policy debates directly and indirectly by presenting policymakers and influencers with compelling data, analysis, arguments, and proposals to advance effective innovation policies and oppose counterproductive ones.
Ongoing research programs and educational activities include:
- Setting the policy agenda on innovation issues by producing original research reports, blogs, op-eds and analytical commentary.
- Shaping public debate by hosting events and conferences, giving speeches and presentations, providing official testimony, and serving as expert issue analysts for the news media.
- Advising policymakers through direct interaction at all levels of government around the world—as ITIF analysts in recent years have traveled to engage in policymaking forums in more than three dozen cities across five continents.
On the strength and influence of this work, the University of Pennsylvania has recognized ITIF as the think tank that has set the global standard for excellence in science and technology policy, and as one of the top 40 U.S. think tanks overall.
ITIF advances public policies that accelerate technological innovation and opposes policies that inhibit it. In pursuing that mission, we do not hew to a fixed set of ideas—in fact, we adamantly reject groupthink. ITIF strives instead for objective and rational analysis that is guided by critical thinking and a set of core values. We are open to, and indeed seek out, persuasive new information that challenges our point of view, but our goals and values determine the issues we prioritize and the analytical frameworks we use to evaluate policy questions, reach conclusions, and provide recommendations.
We seek to advance innovation. We believe innovation is almost always a force for good. It is the principal driver of human advancement and the essential means for improving quality of life. A robust rate of innovation makes possible many other goals—including increases in median per-capita income, improved health, transportation mobility, better education, and a cleaner environment.
We believe the purpose of economic and technology policy is to boost per-capita income. The best way to achieve that goal is to focus first and foremost on growing the economy by accelerating innovation, not redistributing the pie or constraining innovation.
We are champions for the public good. We believe that quality of life is defined by more than the aggregation of narrowly defined individual rights. Policies that privilege individual self-interests over the broader public interest and civic duties—whether on behalf of consumers, workers, business owners or shareholders—are almost always harmful to the greater good.
We believe disruptive innovation almost always leads to economic and social progress. While we recognize that innovation often involves a process of “creative destruction,” which can threaten the established order among companies, industries, occupations, and regions we believe that the role of government is not to protect competitors of any type or size from change; it is to accelerate innovation. But at the same time, governments should help communities and individuals dislocated by technological advancement adapt and make successful transitions.
We have a considered faith in markets and businesses of all sizes. ITIF believes innovation and economic growth is usually maximized when for-profit businesses, including large corporations, are allowed to compete with relatively few restrictions. At the same time, we believe that the process of innovation is complex. Doctrinaire approaches to policy can be politically appealing—whether they romanticize free markets and limited government on one hand, or anti-corporate populism on the other—but applying those orthodoxies is a recipe for underperforming in 21st-century innovation industries, a grouping that grows larger all the time. Maximizing innovation requires limited, but smart state action to support organizations, including for-profit businesses, while ensuring that policies do not favor or discriminate against certain firms based on their size. This includes supporting key innovation inputs (e.g., research and skills), adopting innovation in government, driving innovation in key industries of the future, and speeding the transformation of industry and technology ecosystems.
We believe in deftly tailoring laws and regulations to achieve their intended purposes in a rapidly evolving economy. While we seek to maximize innovation, it should not come at the expense of other goals and values. Just because a product or service is delivered on a new digital platform should not mean that longstanding intellectual property concerns go by the wayside. And just because an industry or firm operates digitally does not mean that regulatory requirements should diverge from those that apply to others providing similar products or services. But regulatory parity does not have to mean the exact same regulation for everyone; rather, it should mean affording the same level of protection, often through different means. Policymakers should ensure that regulatory interventions impose the least-possible costs and impediments to innovation—and be applied in a size-neutral way—while still achieving reasonable public interest goals. At the same time, effective regulation requires not giving into the passions of the day, and instead carefully evaluating each industry and technology using objective criteria.
We believe in selectively deepening global integration. ITIF believes that expanded trade and cross-border investment are key drivers of increased global innovation, but only when nations allow trade and investment decisions to be made based on voluntary, competitively determined business considerations. Government policies undermine global innovation and prosperity when they limit imports and investment, force foreign investment or technology transfer as a condition of market access, discriminate against foreign firms, or weaken intellectual property protection. And government actions to fight such practices, far from being “protectionist,” are in fact supporting global free trade, innovation, and economic welfare.
We are international in our outlook. While ITIF is based in Washington, DC, our mission is to advance innovation globally. We help and support policymakers around the world to advance policies that spur innovation in their own economies while we oppose policies that seek to advance unfair, “innovation mercantilist,” zero-sum, or negative outcomes.
ITIF’s team of policy analysts and fellows includes recognized experts in a wide range of issues related to technology and innovation policy. They are led by ITIF’s president and founder, Dr. Robert D. Atkinson, an internationally recognized policy scholar who has served on government advisory commissions under U.S. presidents Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden. The New Republic named Atkinson one of the “three most important thinkers about innovation,” Washingtonian Magazine called him a “Tech Titan,” and Government Technology judged him to be one of the top 25 “Doers, Dreamers and Drivers of Information Technology.”
ITIF is home to five policy centers:
- The Center for Data Innovation develops and promotes policy ideas to capitalize on the tremendous economic and social benefits that data-driven innovation can offer.
- The Center for Clean Energy Innovation seeks to accelerate the transition of the domestic and global energy systems to cost-competitive low-carbon resources.
- The Schumpeter Project on Competition Policy advances dynamic competition policy that elevates innovation to be a central concern for antitrust enforcement.
- The Center for Life Sciences Innovation advocates for accelerating biopharmaceutical innovation, recognizing the public and private sectors both have essential roles to play.
- The Hamilton Center on Industrial Strategy advocates for a renewed “national developmentalism” approach to economic policy that enables U.S. advanced-industry leadership in global markets.
ITIF also launched—and spearheads—the Global Trade and Innovation Policy Alliance, an international network of more than 50 think tanks on six continents that conduct evidence-based research into policies that can foster greater trade liberalization, curb “innovation mercantilism,” and encourage governments to play proactive roles in spurring innovation and productivity.
The common thread that runs through ITIF’s work is that public policy should almost always err on the side of spurring innovation instead of limiting or constraining it—and the conventional policy agendas of both the left and right are often ill-suited to the challenges and opportunities of today’s economy. ITIF believes that effective innovation policy requires policy innovation, which stems from disruptive new thinking that actively pushes back on stale thinking and faulty ideas.
The need for an expert resource such as ITIF is evidenced by the substantial impact it has in shaping tangible policy outcomes:
- The CHIPS and Science Act adopted a regional innovation hubs program based on one ITIF proposal and establishes a foundation for energy security and innovation based on another ITIF proposal.
- Mirroring an ITIF proposal, the U.S. Department of Energy created an Office of Clean Energy Demonstration (OCED) in December 2021 to deliver more than $20 billion provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to support large-scale clean energy demonstration projects. The Biden administration later gave OCED an additional $5.8 billion under the Inflation Reduction Act for a new advanced industrial facilities deployment program.
- President Biden’s executive order to ensure a data-driven response to COVID-19 and future high-consequence public health threats echoed ITIF’s call to establish a pandemic data task force to identify key gaps in national data infrastructure that could undermine future responses, such as a lack of standards between state IT systems.
- President Trump’s executive order ended reliance on academic degrees as qualifications for federal jobs, as ITIF recommended in a report on why it is time to disrupt higher education by separating learning from credentialing.
- The OPEN Government Data Act, signed by President Trump in 2019, reflected the Center for Data Innovation’s call for comprehensive legislation to define the publication of open data as a permanent responsibility of the U.S. government.
- President Trump issued an executive order on artificial intelligence (AI), reflecting the Center’s advocacy for more federal action to support the U.S. AI industry.
- The Connected Government Act, signed into law by President Trump, addressed ITIF’s call to make government websites more mobile friendly, as described in its report, “Benchmarking U.S. Government Websites.”
- The Trump administration revoked India’s and Turkey’s duty-free access to U.S. markets under the Generalized System of Preferences, reflecting an ITIF recommendation for countering innovation mercantilism in developing countries.
- The Consumer Review Fairness Act, signed by President Obama, protected consumers’ right to post critical product reviews online by outlawing frivolous “gag clauses.” ITIF was a leading proponent and testified in the U.S. Senate in support of the legislation.
- The Manufacturing Universities program, included in the 2016 U.S. National Defense Authorization Act to pilot new approaches to engineering education, reflected ITIF recommendations and advocacy.
- ITIF reports and advocacy efforts helped inspire the Obama administration to create the S. Energy Department’s Office of Technology Transitions and a technology commercialization fund.
- The Revitalizing American Manufacturing Innovation Act, passed in the 2014 omnibus U.S. budget, stemmed from ITIF’s recommendations and advocacy, authorizing the Obama administration to establish a Network for Manufacturing Innovation, later known as Manufacturing USA.
- The Obama administration’s rural broadband strategy, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, along with the Federal Communications Commission’s subsequent release of a National Broadband Plan, reflected ITIF’s 2008 recommendation to implement
a national broadband strategy.
- ITIF’s advocacy also helped build support for the Recovery Act’s R&D funding
- President Obama established the White House position of Federal Chief Information Officer to plan federal IT investments and oversee federal technology spending, as ITIF recommended in a 2008 report.
- The High Court of New Delhi, India, relied heavily on ITIF research when it issued a judgment that created a new mechanism for rights holders to block access to websites involved in large-scale piracy.
- Governments from Singapore to Sweden have developed national innovation strategies based in significant part on a framework ITIF developed and promoted in its book Innovation Economics.
- The U.S. states of Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island have developed innovation policies based on ITIF proposals.
“ITIF is able to play an important role in developing policy because they work on creative solutions to break through partisan gridlock. We can’t move our country forward unless we work together.”
— U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE)
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“ITIF has been invaluable in developing policy proposals for the country to keep leading in the global knowledge economy.”
— U.S. Sen. Todd Young (R-IN)
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“Now more than ever, technology and innovation are key drivers of every sector in the country—and that pace will only accelerate. I benefit from the high-quality information, analysis, and recommendations ITIF offers.”
— U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA)
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“At a time when technology is advancing at a rapid rate, experts like the team at ITIF play an important role in promoting forward-looking, innovative solutions to complicated issues.”
— U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA)
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“Technology issues increasingly are at the heart of our most consequential policy debates. ITIF provides the invaluable service of breaking through the confusion to give policymakers high-quality information, analysis, and recommendations we can trust to foster the kind of innovation that will drive economic growth and social progress.”
— U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA)
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“ITIF has been a leader in advocating for policies that will help jumpstart research and development, promote new investment, and encourage innovation. I appreciate ITIF’s role as a national advocate on behalf of our country’s future economic security.”
— U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA)
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“Innovation and technology aren’t just the lifeblood of today’s economy, but tomorrow’s economy as well. They are the engines that will drive our nation and the world for generations to come. I commend ITIF’s commitment to those core principles.”
— Former U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
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“ITIF’s work at the intersection of technological innovation and public policy is critically important because it strengthens the very foundations of America’s economic and national security at a time when China is threatening both.”
— Michael Brown, Former Head of the DOD’s Defense Innovation Unit
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“The information technology revolution remains the key driver of prosperity growth. I am pleased that ITIF has been launched to help develop the kinds of ideas and policy proposals that will ensure America remains the global technology leader.”
— Former U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI)
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“You can always count on ITIF for rigorous analysis of complicated questions. Its conclusions are sensible and sound, because they’re based on hard evidence.”
— Aneesh Chopra, Co-Founder, Hunch Analytics, and Former U.S. Chief Technology Officer
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“In an environment that continually generates new questions and challenges for technology policymakers, ITIF provides needed in-depth, objective analysis and thoughtful recommendations.”
— Michael Kratsios, Head of Strategy, Scale AI, and Former U.S. Chief Technology Officer