Robert D. Atkinson
As founder and president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), recognized as the world’s 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; as co-chair of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s China-U.S. Innovation Policy Experts Group; to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship; and the Trump administration appointed him to the G7 Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence. The Biden administration appointed him as a member of the U.S. State Department’s Advisory Committee on International Communications and Information, and a member of the Export-Import Bank of the United States' Council on China Competition.
Atkinson also served 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 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.
Atkinson is a member of the Special Competitive Studies Project. He served on the Markle Foundation Task Force on National Security in the Information Age and serves on the boards or advisory councils of 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. He is also an adjunct professor at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service.ice.
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.
Mission Innovation, Phase 2: More Failed Aspirations to Fight Climate Change
Twenty-three countries plus the EU pledged in 2015 to double their investments in clean energy RD&D by 2020. Only one met that goal. Undeterred, they announced a new set of pledges in 2021. Two years later, most are still woefully underinvesting in clean energy RD&D.
Technology Will Eliminate Some Jobs, But That’s Not the End of the Story
As Robert D. Atkinson writes in National Review, the reality is that all AI applications that increase worker productivity are in the national interest, regardless of whether they complement or replace the worker.
Podcast: The Importance of Reducing Anticompetitive Market Distortions, With Alden Abbott and Shanker Singham
There is a troubling chasm between trade policy and competition policy.
Top 10 Things I Disagreed With in the US Senate AI Insight Forum on the Workforce
Contrary to pessimists’ worst fears, the job dislocation impacts from AI are likely to be very manageable—and AI-based automation will be critical to boosting workers’ wages.
Statement to the US Senate AI Insight Forum on “AI and the Workforce”
The United States needs to lead the world on the development and adoption of AI. If we can do that, in part through supportive policy and not restrictive regulations like the EU is introducing, U.S. workers will benefit significantly, especially if Congress makes the needed workforce and education policy changes.
Ten Problems With Canada’s Plan to Tax U.S. Internet Services Companies
Instead of enacting counterproductive tax grabs from U.S. digital firms, Canada and others should wait for the OECD to complete its Base Erosion Profits Shifting (BEPS) plan.
Podcast: How China Continues to Shirk Its Trade Obligations, With Dennis Shea
China has had a dismissive attitude about its obligations as a member of World Trade Organization ever since it joined the organization.
The Myth About Hi-Tech Antitrust ‘Success’
Supporters of the recent antitrust cases against Google and Amazon like to stress America’s long history of successful technology industry interventions. But who says that the iconic cases of the past were necessary and successful?
Stronger Semiconductor Export Controls on China Will Likely Harm Allied Semiconductor Competitiveness
It’s finally clear to most in Washington that the United States faces a major competitor in China in defense, advanced technology industries, and other realms. There’s also a growing bipartisan consensus that the United States needs to limit China’s advancement. But that’s where the consensus breaks down.
The Missing Piece in America’s Strategy for Techno-Economic Rivalry with China
As the world closely observes several recent diplomatic exchanges, a question looms large: Are traditional methods of engagement effective in addressing the growing challenges posed by China’s techno-economic malpractice to U.S. economic interests and those of other democratic market economies?
Podcast: Getting Export Controls Right, With Kevin Wolf
Export controls exist at the perilous intersection of economic policy and national security. What could go wrong?
Comparing Canadian and U.S. R&D Leaders in Advanced Sectors
R&D-intensive companies are key to national growth and competitiveness. Canada lags far behind the United States and the rest of the world in R&D-intensive firms. The Canadian government should consider reforming and expanding its SR&ED tax incentive.
Recent Events and Presentations
How Can States Help the CHIPS Act Succeed?
Please join ITIF for a discussion with state leaders about how to successfully implement the CHIPS Act.
Climate & Freedom International Coalition Meeting
Rob Atkinson discusses ITIF's P3 paper and why it should be guide for clean energy policy at the Climate and Freedom Coalition Meeting hosted by the Grace Richardson Fund.
A Realist Climate Policy: Driving Clean Tech to Price/Performance Parity
Watch now for the release event for the important new report and panel discussion on why P3 must be the new lens governments that governments must use to decide which clean energy technologies to support and how to support them.
Differing Perspectives on Antitrust and Big Tech: What Have We Learned?
Rob Atkinson speaks at the Reason Foundation on what we’ve learned in recent antitrust debates and where we go from here.
Industry 4.0: Tacit & Formal Manufacturing Knowledge, Technology Transfer, IP
Rob Atkinson spoke about the importance of intellectual property to continued innovation and how it fits into enabling future advanced innovation systems, especially in manufacturing, at an event held by Arizona State University's Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes and George Mason University's Center for Intellectual Property and Innovation Policy.
2023 NNCTA Equity and Labor Workshop
Rob Atkinson spoke about energy at a workshop hosted by the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Transatlantic Approaches to AI Regulation in Times of Great Power Competition
Rob Atkinson spoke as a panelist about AI regulation in the time of Great Power competition at an event hosted by the embassy of Austria.
The Importance of the Innovation Ecosystem
Join Duke University, Hudson Institute, and ITIF for a daylong roundtable featuring experts in the innovation ecosystem, from academia to the think tank community, as they explore these and other questions.
How to Restore Robust Productivity Growth in Advanced Economies
Watch the expert panel discussion on the reasons for disappointing productivity growth in advanced economies and what policymakers should do to get back on track.
The Great Debate Over Technology and Prosperity
ITIF hosted a spirited debate between ITIF President Rob Atkinson and economist Simon Johnson, author of the new book Power and Progress: Our Thousand-Year Struggle Over Technology and Prosperity.
The Implications of Japan’s New Economic Security Law
Watch the expert panel for the discussion on Japan’s efforts and the implications for U.S. policy.
Assessing the State of Transatlantic Tech-Trade Relations
Watch the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) online event where they explored EU-U.S. transatlantic trade relations.
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
Rob provided a keynote presentation for the Waukesha County Business Alliance’s 103rd Annual Meeting. Our members enjoyed his thorough and informative presentation about innovation and growth potential for our region and state.
- Robyn Ludtke Senior Vice President, Strategic Initiatives & Workforce, Waukesha County Business Alliance
Rob Atkinson offers a cleared-eyed view of the need for a new and well-founded industrial policy for the United States. Without taking any political side, Atkinson lays out the economic uncertainty the country faces by failing to invest in critical industries. The war in Ukraine and mounting tensions with China highlight the need for the U.S. to invest in critical development and production, particularly in semiconductors, but in other key industries as well. According to Atkinson, the debate is not about capitalism or socialism, but whether the U.S. has the determination to build resiliency at home to face myriad global problems now and in the future.
- Bill Clifford President and CEO, World Affairs Councils of America