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.

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

November 12, 2018

In a book review for the New York Journal of Books, Rob Atkinson writes that "No One at the Wheel" by Sam Schwartz dismisses the most important questions society needs to face as autonomou

November 10, 2018

As Rob Atkinson writes for The Hill, price controls and other steps to reduce drug company revenues would stifle knowledge generation and sharing, leaving future generations less access to effective new drugs than would otherwise be the case.

November 9, 2018

It has become widely accepted in the last several years that there has been a massive increase in income inequality in America, said to be behind the rise of populism on both the right and the left. It’s a compelling narrative, but is it borne out by evidence or simply accepted as true because it is a constant refrain?

November 5, 2018

A considerable share of biopharma research “spills over” and contributes to knowledge discovery and drug development overall, not just in individual firms’ labs.

October 24, 2018

To restore robust productivity growth, Europe must fully embrace information and communication technologies (ICT) throughout its economy.

October 19, 2018

Connected and autonomous vehicles rely on IT hardware and software, an area where the United States has a competitive advantage globally. Congress and the administration should help U.S. industry press that advantage not with auto tariffs, but with more robust innovation policies.

October 12, 2018

In a letter to the editor for the Springfield Republican, Rob Atkinson explains why a vehicle miles traveled tax makes sense for Massachusetts.

October 10, 2018

As Rob Atkinson and Michael Lind write for Bloomberg, progressives should abandon their battle against big companies like Amazon and push Congress to pass a higher national minimum wage that applies to all employers.

October 9, 2018

In a book review for the New York Journal of Books, Rob Atkinson points to where “AI-Superpowers” offers informative analysis about the state of artificial intelligence and where it wrongly fans the fears of technology.

September 24, 2018

Much of what people assume to be true about big business is completely wrong. Rob Atkinson and Michael Lind cover five of the most egregious examples in this Innovation Files post.

September 17, 2018

In an article for American Interest with Admiral Dennis Blair, Rob Atkinson argues that it’s time for America to rise to the challenge of "Made in China 2025" by developing its own comprehensive plan to maintain competitive advantage advanced technology industries.

August 28, 2018

Most of the opposition to Amazon/Whole Foods merger had little or nothing to do with economics and consumer welfare. Instead, it had everything to do with a competing vision for the kind of society we want to live in.

Recent Events and Presentations

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.

November 28, 2018

Even with continued improvements and cost reductions to current emissions reducing technologies, the world is not on track to achieve the deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Join ITIF for the release of a new report analyzing hard-to-decarbonize sectors and an expert panel discussion on the limits of current technologies and potential solutions.

November 15, 2018

Economists and policymakers have led an effort to explain technological innovation as good for workers throughout the economy, but why have so many become so eager to throw robots under the bus by blaming automation for labor market woes? Join ITIF for an expert discussion of Oren Cass's new book on the future of work, related technological and economic trends, and their implications for policymakers.

October 12, 2018

At the sixth annual fall conference hosted by the Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property , Rob Atkinson participated in a panel discussing "A Different Perspective on Big Data."

September 25, 2018

Quantum computing offers the extraordinary potential to analyze in minutes problems a conventional computer could take thousands of years to solve. It represents “the space race of the computing era,” and few people understand it as well as Professor Michelle Simmons.

September 12, 2018

Rob Atkinson spoke on a panel at the "Revitalizing American Industries: Putting Technology and Workforce Development to Work" event hosted by Real Clear Politics.

July 12, 2018

U.S.-China economic tensions are escalating, raising serious questions. What are the prospects of these tit-for-tat tariff measures escalating into a full-blown trade war?

June 21, 2018

Please join ITIF for a fascinating discussion with author Mark Zachary Taylor to better understand the politics of innovation and the implications for the United States.

June 8, 2018

Rob Atkinson presented on the next production revolution and its impact on employment at the "Summit on the Credentialing Economy" hosted by Connecting Credentials and Saylor Academy. The summit explored the evolving world of credentialing, including the value of credentials in seeking employment; technology tools to create and distribute credentials and emerging models and frameworks to ensure quality.

May 24, 2018

Rob Atkinson presented on the challenges and opportunities in driving Korean innovation for the the Next Production Revolution to an international conference focused on Korea’s growth as an innovative and inclusive nation on May 24th in Seoul, South Korea.

April 16, 2018

Please join the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation for a panel discussion marking the release of Big Is Beautiful. Speakers will address the role and impact of large firms on the U.S. economy and society, and delve into the implications for policymakers.

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