Robert D. Atkinson

Robert D. Atkinson
President
Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

As founder and president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), recognized as the worlds top think tank for science and technology policy, Robert D. Atkinson leads a prolific team of policy analysts and fellows that is successfully shaping the debate and setting the agenda on a host of critical issues at the intersection of technological innovation and public policy.

He is an internationally recognized scholar and a widely published author whom The New Republic has named one of the “three most important thinkers about innovation,” Washingtonian Magazine has called a “tech titan,” Government Technology Magazine has judged to be one of the 25 top “doers, dreamers and drivers of information technology,” and the Wharton Business School has awarded him the “Wharton Infosys Business Transformation Award.”

A sought-after speaker and valued adviser to policymakers around the world, Atkinson’s books include Big is Beautiful: Debunking the Mythology of Small Business (MIT Press, 2018); Innovation Economics: The Race for Global Advantage (Yale, 2012), and The Past And Future Of America’s Economy: Long Waves Of Innovation That Power Cycles Of Growth (Edward Elgar, 2005). He also has conducted groundbreaking research projects and authored hundreds of articles and reports on technology and innovation-related topics ranging from tax policy to advanced manufacturing, productivity, and global competitiveness. He has testified before the United States Congress more than 30 times.

President Clinton appointed Atkinson to the Commission on Workers, Communities, and Economic Change in the New Economy; the Bush administration appointed him chair of the congressionally created National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission; and the Obama administration appointed him to the National Innovation and Competitiveness Strategy Advisory Board. He also has served as co-chair of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s China-U.S. Innovation Policy Experts Group; as a member of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship; and on the U.S. State Department’s Advisory Committee on International Communications and Information.

Atkinson is a member of the Markle Foundation Task Force on National Security in the Information Age and serves on the boards or advisory councils of the Internet Education Foundation, the NetChoice Coalition, the University of Oregon’s Institute for Policy Research and Innovation, and the State Science and Technology Institute. Additionally, Atkinson is on the editorial boards of the Journal of Electronic Government and the Journal of Internet Policy; a member of the Global Innovation Forum Brain Trust; a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution; a fellow at the Columbia University Institute of Tele-Information; and a fellow of Glocom, a Tokyo-based research institute.

Atkinson was previously vice president of the Progressive Policy Institute, where he directed the Technology & New Economy Project. He wrote numerous research reports on technology and innovation policy, covering issues such as broadband telecommunications, e-commerce, e-government, privacy, copyright, R&D tax policy, offshoring, and innovation economics.

Previously, Atkinson served as the first executive director of the Rhode Island Economic Policy Council (RIEPC), a public-private partnership whose members included the state’s governor, legislative leaders, and both corporate and labor leaders. As head of RIEPC, Atkinson was responsible for drafting a comprehensive economic development strategy for the state and working with the legislature and executive branch of government to successfully implement each element of a 10-point action agenda.

Prior to his service in Rhode Island, Atkinson was a project director at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, where, among other projects, he spearheaded The Technological Reshaping of Metropolitan America, a seminal report examining the impact of the information technology revolution on America’s urban areas.

As a respected policy expert and commentator, Atkinson has testified numerous times before the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and he appears frequently on news and public affairs programs. Among others, these appearances have included interviews on BBC, CNBC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, NPR, and NBC Nightly News.

Atkinson holds a Ph.D. in city and regional planning from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he was awarded the prestigious Joseph E. Pogue Fellowship. He earned his master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Oregon, which named him a distinguished alumnus in 2014.

Recent Publications

June 29, 2019

Following a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 meetings in Tokyo, President Trump stated that he had agreed to lift the “deemed export” ban on Huawei.

June 21, 2019

As Rob Atkinson and Pradeep Mehta write for the Economic Times, India and the United States are naturally placed to develop a shared global vision for digital economy.

June 10, 2019

As Rob Atkinson and Pradeep Mehta write for Global Trade Magazine, a high-level digital alliance between India and the United States would present an optimal alternative to the Chinese and EU approaches.

May 27, 2019

The foundation of the global digital economy is showing cracks. Countries that support an open, rules-based global trading system need to agree on a common framework.

May 26, 2019

In a column for Latin Trade Magazine, Rob Atkinson writes that the China-U.S. trade war can be an opportunity for Latin America.

May 23, 2019

If the administration insists that Chinese enterprises play by WTO rules but they don’t, then it is justified in responding accordingly. But that response must be measured and proportionate. If not adequately balanced, limiting U.S. technology exports to Chinese firms is just cutting off our nose to spit our face.

May 20, 2019

In an article for American Affairs, Rob Atkinson and Michael Lind explain why national de­velopmentalism should guide American economic policy at home and abroad.

May 2, 2019

In an article for National Review, Rob Atkinson writes that, at its heart, Chinese state capitalism is a system in which the purpose of firms — private and public — is to fulfill the goals of the Communist Party.

April 22, 2019

A national “road user charge” system would ensure that everyone who drives on America’s roads contributes their fair share of the infrastructure costs.

April 8, 2019

Given that the economy has been in an unprecedented productivity growth slump—and the baby boom retirement wave is rising—taxing automation equipment ranks as a singularly bad policy idea.

April 8, 2019

If China were only a copier, then the competitive threat to advanced economies would be limited. But there is no reason to believe China won’t follow the path of “Asian tigers” that rapidly evolved from copiers to innovators, which poses a serious threat.

April 8, 2019

In a book review for the New York Journal of Books, Rob Atkinson writes that "Jump-Starting America" is an important and interesting book about the future of the United States.

Recent Events and Presentations

July 16, 2019

Please join ITIF for an expert panel discussion on the current state and future potential of robotics across all sectors of the U.S. economy. Where are we today with robotic development? What are the key technological challenges to overcome? What is the government’s role in supporting robotics development and adoption? And, of course, what is the likely impact on employment?

July 11, 2019

ITIF hosted an expert panel to discuss growing calls to either break up big tech companies or subject them to more careful scrutiny out of concern they may be violating competition laws. The panel examined these issues and explored what, if anything, should be done to change the current antitrust regime.

July 10, 2019

The escalating trade war between the United States and China has launched an intense debate in Washington about what, if anything, the U.S. should do in response to China's mercantilist policies. Join ITIF for a spirited debate about the fraught economic political realities of the U.S.-China trading relationship and the best-available options for policymakers.

June 20, 2019

There is an increasingly intense focus in Washington on reducing the price of drugs to bring down health care costs.

June 11, 2019

On June 11, 2019, ITIF President Robert Atkinson partnered with David Plouffe, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama in the C.D.

May 7, 2019

Rob Atkinson participated in an expert panel discussion on emerging transportation technologies and the future of freight at the RailxTech conference.

April 25, 2019

Join ITIF for the release of a new report—“A Policymaker’s Guide to Road User Charges”—and an expert panel discussion that will delve into the myths and realities of having a “road user charge” system (RUC) that uses technology to log the mileage of cars and trucks and charge them accordingly.

April 9, 2019

America’s ability to compete globally in biomedical innovation is being threatened.

March 28, 2019

The United States has long been a magnet for the best talent in the world, particularly in science and engineering disciplines. But now, as American policymakers engage in a necessary debate about low-skill immigration, that issue has been conflated with the separate issue of high-skill STEM immigration, and the unfortunate result has been unduly harsh scrutiny and stricter limits on the latter. ITIF hosted a panel discussion exploring the controversies of the H-1B visa.

March 22, 2019

ITIF and an expert panel discussed the consequences of various reforms to the U.S. Postal Service.

December 12, 2018

While the technology industry was once seen as being committed to building a better and smarter world, shifting public perceptions towards the tech industry have caused it to go on the defensive when it comes to issues ranging from data privacy to income equity, workplace diversity, and antitrust enforcement. Has the technology industry become worthy of the same scrutiny as the oil, banking, or airline industry? Join ITIF for an in-depth discussion of these critical issues, including an assessment of the validity of commonly voiced concerns and what the industry needs to do to avoid becoming the next Big Oil.

December 11, 2018

What should we make of large corporations today? Of all that can be said about large corporations—statistics, anecdotes, trend lines, and historical comparisons—which are the facts that matter most, and how should policymakers respond? Join ITIF for a spirited debate moderated by CNN's Lydia DePillis between ITIF President Robert Atkinson and Columbia University Law Professor Tim Wu on the role and influence of big business in today’s economy and society.

Testimonials

Rob Atkinson, “has a unique and enviable capacity to communicate cutting-edge analysis of emerging and effective economic development practices. In that, he made high level concepts very accessible and relevant to those in the front line of growing jobs and the economy. We consider ourselves to be very fortunate you were able to share your voice, vision, wisdom, and experience with our regional leaders.”

- Jim Prosser Executive Director, Centralina Council of Governments 

Dr. Robert D. Atkinson was an excellent addition as an international keynote speaker at the Innovation Day, hosted by the Portuguese Industrial Association (AIP) in Lisbon. Dr. Atkinson’s presentation on lessons from the U.S. innovation system was insightful and engaging. His encouraging perspective on innovation and its potential role in the Portugal context during a moderated discussion was thought provoking for the audience. Dr. Atkinson is an excellent speaker and a pleasure to collaborate with.

- Augusto Medina President, Sociedade Portuguesa de Inovacao S.A. 

Dr. Atkinson’s keynote on “Innovation Waves” was a highlight of our P&G Alumni Innovation Summit. His long view of how innovation shapes business and economic growth provides clear direction on what’s needed to sustain US competitiveness in the decades to come. Rob was able to share a balanced view of what’s working and not working today, outlining a sensible approach for Federal R&D spending and regulatory policy.

- Wayne Fisher President, Rockdale Innovation