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), 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 was asked to serve 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 of the UK. He is a founding member of the 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 the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics team.

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

December 2, 2020

In a political weaponization of antitrust laws, the administration and its state AG allies decided to go to battle against Google over an issue the president thought was an obstacle to his re-election: the alleged collusion between big tech companies and the Democrats against himself.

November 23, 2020

It has become abundantly clear that the United States faces a robust economic and military competitor in China.

November 23, 2020

Because the unemployment insurance system is structured as a state-federal partnership, most states compete for business by limiting unemployment insurance payments.

November 23, 2020

With protectionist policies shielding their rear flank domestically, China’s digital firms are out to capture global market share. Their strategy hinges on state-backed innovation mercantilism—and their success will come at the cost of U.S. jobs, exports, and economic growth.

November 16, 2020

A key component to any national advanced industry strategy—and one that should receive welcome bipartisan agreement—should be to help all 50 states expand their state development strategies and better align them to the overall mission of outcompeting China.

November 16, 2020

Many on the left are advocating for industrial policies that would do little or nothing to boost advanced industry competitiveness. Writing in American Compass, Rob D.

November 9, 2020

There was a time, a decade or so ago, when many people thought it would be a long while before telecommunications networks could handle the migration from cable TV to over-the-top video streaming. 

November 7, 2020

The president-elect’s overall approach to technology and innovation policy appears to be formulated to engage the government as an active partner alongside industry in spurring innovation—but also as a tougher regulator of many tech industries and technologies.

November 2, 2020

The United States has no national, coordinated innovation policy system. In fact, its overall innovation system has been deteriorating. The country’s economic future and national security will depend on rising to the challenge of addressing this problem.

October 27, 2020

Though many pundits catastrophize about the rapid acceleration of technological change, the reality is that this change is occuring no faster than in prior periods. Writin

October 26, 2020

America leads in biopharmaceutical innovation and drug development, in large part due to effective life-science policies, including significant federal investment in basic research, robust in

Recent Events and Presentations

January 6, 2021

Please join ITIF for an expert debate on these issues, featuring Daniel Gros, director of the Centre for European Policy Studies, who has argued that the United States must accept China’s rise, and ITIF President Robert Atkinson, who argues America and Europe must work together to constrain China, particularly its drive to dominate advanced technology industries.

December 16, 2020

Please join ITIF for a discussion of this critical issue. The event will feature a keynote address from Simon Tripp of TEConomy Partners, author of the new report “Response and Resilience: Lessons Learned from Global Life Sciences Ecosystems in the COVID-19 Pandemic,” followed by an expert panel of respondents.

November 12, 2020

As the next wave of information technology matures, many commentators worry about the job disruption that automation technology will bring.

October 7, 2020

China will likely be the biggest business disruptor of the 2020s because of its unique position as the world’s largest market for many products, the leading supplier of many more, the toughest comp

July 9, 2020

ITIF hosted a discussion with industry leaders on the role of digitalization in driving energy efficiency gains across the economy, and the release of a new ITIF report assessing the concerns—some legitimate and most not—regarding the energy and environmental impacts of the tech sector.

April 9, 2020

ITIF hosted a video webinar to discuss the implications of the pandemic on society, industry, and individuals and what organizations and governments need to do to cope.

March 26, 2020

ITIF held a webinar on March 26 exploring how competition authorities can better consider the productivity and competitiveness implications of antitrust policy, including in merger reviews.

February 18, 2020

ITIF hosted an expert panel discussion on the risks of expanding export controls on U.S. technologies too far, and the strategic considerations involved in getting the balance right.

February 6, 2020

ITIF’s Center for Data Innovation hosted a discussion exploring the future of AI-enabled manufacturing, and what European policymakers should do to help Europe thrive.

January 1, 2020

Please join ITIF for a discussion of these issues with leading computer science education experts.

December 11, 2019

ITIF and the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program presented a proposal for a national competition to select metropolitan areas to receive a decade-long range of robust policy supports, enabling their transition into self-sustaining, globally competitive innovation hubs.

September 12, 2019

ITIF released a new report laying out a productivity-focused agenda for federal science and engineering research, and a panel explored how increasing government spending on R&D can help advance technology, boost productivity, and improve living standards.

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