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Robert D. Atkinson

Robert D.


Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @RobAtkinsonITIF

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

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 30, 2023

Six Tech Industries Accounted for More Than One-Third of GDP Growth in the Last Decade

Rather than complaining about them and trying to throw sand in their gears, policymakers should be celebrating their success and seeking to support them as they power even more growth.

May 30, 2023

Secretary Raimondo Should Host a National Economic Development Summit With Her State Counterparts

We live in a world where, if the United States wants to avoid sinking further into economic weakness, all levels of government need to be in regular communication with one another to improve their alignment.

May 25, 2023

The Administration Should Disregard Progressives’ Unfair Attacks on Its Digital Trade Agenda

In a recent letter to USTR Tai and Commerce Secretary Raimondo, a group of leading progressive lawmakers sought to press their failed domestic crusade against “Big Tech” through the vehicle of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. It was a tour de force for invalid and ill-advised economic arguments that put a parochial domestic agenda ahead of U.S. national interests.

May 25, 2023

CHIPping Away at Objections

It’s surprising to see free-market advocates put their wisdom ahead of the market.

May 21, 2023

Korea Needs to Slow Down Regulation, Speed Up Support for AI

For some bizarre reason, countries are competing not to be the best in AI, but to be the best―or worst, depending on how you view it―in AI regulation.

May 18, 2023

Don’t Put US Tech Firms Under the Thumb of the European Commission

The EU is considering a new policy that would force American content providers like Google and Netflix to effectively subsidize European ISPs. The Biden administration should push back at the next meeting of the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council.

May 17, 2023

Killing Mergers Hurts America’s Global Competitiveness

Microsoft buying Activision would help the firm compete with Japan’s Sony and Nintendo, and Adobe buying Figma would put America in a better position in the international market for creative design tools.

May 15, 2023

Podcast: Deciphering the World of Data, With George Sciadas

A data-driven world raises the stakes for numeric literacy.

May 12, 2023

How China Divides Europe and the United States

The preeminent foreign policy question facing the West for at least the next several decades will be what to do about China’s rise as a techno-economic, military, and foreign policy power. But as things stand, Western leaders cannot even agree on the premise of the matter.

May 5, 2023

Time for Competitive Realism

U.S. foreign policy doctrine subordinates the goal of maintaining, let alone maximizing, America’s global power advantage. That formula will not succeed against the new China challenge.

April 20, 2023

Two Charts Illustrate Why America Must Revive Hamiltonian “National Developmentalism”

China is rapidly gaining ground in strategically important technologies and industries—and its gains are coming at the expense of the United States and its allies—yet the U.S. response thus far has been one of halting industrial policy confusion.

April 15, 2023

America Needs to Sort Out Its Industrial Policy Confusion

Beyond the clear consensus in Washington that the United States is locked in fierce competition with China, there has been no unified strategy or organizing principle in evidence.

More publications by Robert D. Atkinson

Recent Events and Presentations

May 31, 2023

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.

May 24, 2023

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.

May 17, 2023

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.

May 11, 2023

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.

May 10, 2023

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.

April 27, 2023

How China Is Gaining and How America Is Lagging: The Case For a National Advanced Industry Strategy

The United States has fallen behind China in a wide array of advanced technology industries and is leading in several emerging ones. Atkinson will discuss America’s recent techno-economic competitive performance vis-a-vis China and how that necessitates the adoption of national developmentalism as the guiding framework for U.S. economic policy.

April 27, 2023

Reviving America’s Hamiltonian Tradition to Win the Economic Competition With China

Please join ITIF for an all-day conference with leading experts and policymakers to explore why and how Washington can look to Hamiltonianism for guidance in how to win the techno-economic contest with China.

March 29, 2023

The Future of Manufacturing and Innovation in Germany and the United States

Join ITIF and OECD to explore policy questions that arose in the context of the OECD Review of Innovation Policy: Germany, but which have relevance to both the United States and Germany.

January 25, 2023

Should Congress Pass President Biden’s Tech Agenda?

In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, President Biden outlined an ambitious legislative agenda for Congress to tackle alleged shortcomings of “Big Tech.” The president’s list of priorities includes enacting a federal privacy law, reforming Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, and increasing competition in the tech sector.

November 28, 2022

How Updating a Century-Old Trade Law Could Limit China’s Ability to Profit From Unfair Trade Practices

Watch ITIF's briefing event featuring Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and an expert panel of current and former U.S. trade officials who discussed how to limit China’s ability to profit from its predatory trade practices.

October 6, 2022

The Politicization of Business: What Gives?

Robert Atkinson participates in an expert panel discussion on “The Politicization of Business: What Gives” as part of a Cato conference—“New Challenges to the Free Economy (from Left and Right)”—that brings together leading economists and policymakers to discuss the ascendant political threats of progressivism and national conservatism to the free economy.

September 27, 2022

The State of Innovation

Robert Atkinson spoke at signature Protocol Live event, “The State of Innovation,” which was held virtually on September 27th.

More Events & Presentations by Robert D. Atkinson


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

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