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 given 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), Supply-Side Follies: Why Conservative Economics Fails, Liberal Economics Falters, and Innovation Economics is the Answer (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), 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; the Obama administration appointed him to the National Innovation and Competitiveness Strategy Advisory Board; and the Trump administration appointed him to the G7 Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence. Atkinson serves on the UK government’s Place Advisory Group to advise the Minister for Science, Research and Innovation on how policy can drive innovation in more regions. He is a founding member of the Polaris Council, a body of cross-sectoral, interdisciplinary science and technology policy experts who advise the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics (STAA) team on emergent and emerging issues facing the Congress and the nation. 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; a fellow of Glocom, a Tokyo-based research institute; and a member of the Polaris Council, an advisory group to the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics team. He is also an adjunct professor at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service.

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

May 23, 2022

China is taking an authoritarian approach in its quest to be a dominant power in technology and global affairs. Silicon Valley innovator and former Under Secretary of State Keith Krach has a unique perspective on both aspects.

May 20, 2022

The disturbing reality is that if U.S. global share shrinks much more the United States will have passed a tipping point where all the subsidies in the world would not be enough to restore production, because of the lack of skilled engineers and technicians, suppliers, knowhow, and other factors.

May 19, 2022

It is time for much closer technology cooperation between the United States and our allied partners, particularly Korea. While Korean and U.S. firms will continue to compete ― fairly and by the rules, unlike Chinese firms ― Korea and America also need to focus on "coopetition": both competing and cooperating.

May 11, 2022

The race for global innovation advantage is never over. Korea has performed extremely well in that race over the last two decades. But if it wants to stay near the head of the pack, it needs to keep working at it. Fixing the R&D credit system for large firms is a key way to do that.

May 9, 2022

Because the cost of producing IT products is lower overseas, applying Buy America provisions to IT components of projects underwritten by the infrastructure bill will raise costs, reduce infrastructure build, and delay project completion—all without creating any net new jobs.

May 2, 2022

The United States has been a leader in artificial intelligence (AI) since the 1950s. But AI and other advanced industry leadership in the United States has been threatened by increased competition with China. Rob and Jackie sat down with Arthur Herman, a senior fellow and director of the Quantum Alliance Initiative at The Hudson Institute, to discuss how AI leadership in the United States has eroded and what policymakers can do to save it for the future.

April 28, 2022

It is a mistake to think that the Internet needs to be governed by one set of laws. Just as nations have different laws in the offline world, they should have different laws in the online world depending on their values, institutions, and legal traditions.

April 21, 2022

The United States and Korea could align collaborative international development aid/assistance, development finance support, and export credit initiatives to encourage nations to select digital technologies, solutions, and platforms from vendors in like-minded nations.

April 21, 2022

If Congress wants to advance the U.S. economy in its toe-to-toe competition with China, then lawmakers need to pass legislation prohibiting cities, states, and the federal government from providing any funding to Chinese companies investing in the United States.

April 18, 2022

One of the benefits of electric vehicles is they cost less to maintain. But that also means there’s less profit to be had in servicing their warranties, which gives car dealers less incentive to sell them. That’s why EV makers like Tesla and Rivian depend on direct-to-consumer sales and distribution. Unfortunately, there are decades-old dealer-distribution laws standing in the way.

April 14, 2022

It is important for conservatives to recognize that China poses a critical threat to America’s future and that we need a strong, technologically vibrant economy to respond. This in turn requires a national industrial policy.

April 11, 2022

Until a significant share of America’s leaders believes the United States is in economic competition with other nations—and that it has a right and duty to win that competition—generating the political will for a national advanced-industry strategy will be difficult.

Recent Events and Presentations

March 17, 2022

Watch ITIF and an expert panel featuring key policymakers and leading analysts who discussed how to bring House and Senate versions of competitiveness legislation across the finish line in a form that will be a winner for U.S. workers and the economy.

March 16, 2022

Join ITIF for a discussion on the accuracy of the narrative put forward and whether or not market concentration has, indeed, increased with ITIF's Julie Carlson & Robert D. Atkinson, Nicholas Trachter of the Federal Reserve of Richmond, & former DOJ official, Gregory Werden.

January 11, 2022

ITIF hosted a discussion of what a robust national strategic-industry policy should—and should not—entail.

December 15, 2021

Rob Atkinson was the keynote speaker at the Ministries of Korea Global Policy Conference on the 4th Industrial Revolution on December 15th, 2021.

December 2, 2021

The Global Trade and Innovation Policy Alliance (GTIPA) represents a network of more than 40 world-leading think tanks dedicated to advancing a positive view of trade, globalization, and innovation

September 9, 2021

ITIF hosted an expert panel discussion on postal reform legislation, and how to ensure the continued viability of USPS as a deliverer of both mail and packages.

June 22, 2021

Rob Atkinson was a guest on "The Creative Life" by ThinkTech Hawaii to discuss promoting policies in innovation economics, and described how to close the divide through creative self-sustaining growth centers.

June 16, 2021

ITIF hosted an in-depth discussion with members of the Biden Administration about the report, implications for policy, and potential next steps.

June 15, 2021

Watch the launch of ITIF's Schumpeter Project on Competition Policy in the Innovation Economy. An expert panel will respond to the presentation of an important new ITIF report outlining a set of guiding principles for “dynamic antitrust.”

June 10, 2021

Watch our overview of this research, including sectoral analysis of five advanced industries: telecommunications equipment, biopharmaceuticals, solar photovoltaics, semiconductors, and high-speed rail. ITIF analysts will discuss how Chinese policies affect global innovation and steps allied nations can take to mitigate the harm.

June 8, 2021

ITIF hosted an expert panel discussion discussing EU-US digital trade relations and what both governments should do to foster closer relations without sacrificing U.S. digital innovation.

May 10, 2021

Rob Atkinson particpated in a an expert Q&A panel on VMT fee transition and implementation hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

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