ITIF Search

Robert D. Atkinson

Robert D. Atkinson


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 Technology Fears and Scapegoats: 40 Myths About Privacy, AI and Today’s Innovation Economy (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming 2024), 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 29, 2024

Japan’s Proposed App Store Law Would Do No Good

Taking a cue from the EU does not make sense for Japan, because Brussels’ regulations were adopted in large measure as a response to the bloc’s failure to produce any leading digital companies of its own. Japan, by contrast, is home to many of the world’s top technology companies.

May 20, 2024

Podcast: Tech Facts and Fallacies, With Rob Atkinson

ITIF President Rob Atkinson appeared on TechFreedom’s Tech Policy Podcast to discuss the new book he co-authored with David Moschella, Technology Fears and Scapegoats.

May 13, 2024

Podcast: Embracing Innovation Is the Ultimate Key to Tackling Climate Change, With Robin Gaster

Climate change is a global problem, with two polarized viewpoints making it difficult to find a solution.

May 10, 2024

America Needs Big Tech to Beat Big China

Neo-Brandeisians have launched a campaign to discredit the argument that breaking up or shackling America’s large technology multinationals would be a boon for China. But they’re wrong.

May 7, 2024

Technology Fears and Scapegoats: 40 Myths about Privacy, Jobs, AI, and Today’s Innovation Economy

Available from Amazon and other booksellers: Technologies and tech companies are accused of creating a myriad of societal problems. Technology Fears and Scapegoats exposes them as mostly myths, falsehoods, and exaggerations. It issues a clarion call to restore the West’s faith in technological progress.

May 2, 2024

Canada Needs a “Canadian” Productivity Commission

Canada needs a productivity commission. But instead of emulating Australia’s model, which is driven by orthodox neoclassical economics, it should take guidance from “productionists” with a deep understanding of firm, industry, and technology dynamics.

April 29, 2024

Assessing Canadian Innovation, Productivity, and Competitiveness

Canada faces unprecedented challenges in innovation, productivity, and competitiveness. The first step in addressing them is to develop a clear understanding of the Canadian economy’s underlying structure and performance in each area. Policymakers must then tailor strategies for specific industries and technologies instead of focusing on principally on macro factors.

April 22, 2024

Podcast: Navigating Deepfakes While Promoting Innovation, With Ryan Long

The past few years have seen a remarkable rise in the quality and quantity of deepfakes.

April 19, 2024

Accelerating Digital Technology Adoption Among U.S. Small and Medium-Sized Manufacturers

Helping SME manufacturers adopt digital technologies will boost productivity, expand output, and allow them to simultaneously raise wages, compete in global markets, and be more flexible in their production processes.

April 15, 2024

How Innovative Is China in the Chemicals Industry?

China is leading in chemical production, especially basic chemicals. And while it is currently lagging behind on innovation—especially in more complex fine chemicals—all signs suggest it will catch up with the global leaders within the next decade or two.

April 5, 2024

A Transatlantic G2 Against Chinese Technology Dominance

Alone, America cannot stem Beijing’s rise in advanced industries. We need a new pact with Europe. Its objective should be to refuse to surrender to technological domination by the CCP. Being pioneers of the green transition will not be enough.

April 4, 2024

Canada Wants Europe’s Competition Policy? It Will Also Get Europe’s Economic Stagnation

The changes two bills are making to reduce market concentration in the Canadian economy pose grave risks to the future of the innovation that is essential to keeping Canada’s innovation economy from declining even more.

More publications by Robert D. Atkinson

Recent Events and Presentations

May 29, 2024

Dublin Tech Summit, 2024

Rob Atkinson appears at the 2024 Dublin Tech Summit to speak about technology’s impact on democracy.

May 7, 2024

Where Does the U.S. Robotics Industry Stand Globally?

ITIF is a proud event partner for SCSP's first-ever AI Expo for National Competitiveness at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center; join us on day one of the expo in room 206 for this discussion. All attendees must register for the conference to enter the convention center. For more information regarding the expo, please visit the AI Expo website.

April 30, 2024

Reviving Canada’s Innovation Economy

Watch now for ITIF's launch event for the Centre for Canadian Innovation and Competitiveness, an Ottawa-based ITIF affiliate focused on tackling these issues. The event featured an expert panel discussion on a new report from the Centre examining the how and why of Canada’s performance on key measures of productivity, innovation, and competitiveness.

April 2, 2024

Chips, Apps, and U.S.-China Competition

As the Biden administration and Congress increasingly focus on U.S. competition with China, policymakers confront complex problems illustrated both by microchip supply chains and by current debates surrounding TikTok.

March 21, 2024

The Crucial Role of Early-Stage University Research in Clean Energy Innovation

Please join ITIF for an expert panel discussion about a new report examining the role of federal funding for clean energy research conducted by colleges and universities.

February 26, 2024

Comparing and Contrasting National Innovation Systems

Rob Atkinson spoke about comparing and contrasting national innovation systems at an event hosted by the CHEY Institute.

September 6, 2023

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.

July 27, 2023

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.

July 25, 2023

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.

July 25, 2023

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.

June 15, 2023

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.

June 14, 2023

2023 NNCTA Equity and Labor Workshop

Rob Atkinson spoke about energy at a workshop hosted by the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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

Back to Top