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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

November 14, 2023

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.

November 13, 2023

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.

November 2, 2023

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.

November 1, 2023

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.

October 27, 2023

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.

October 23, 2023

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.

October 17, 2023

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?

October 12, 2023

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.

October 3, 2023

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?

October 2, 2023

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?

September 25, 2023

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.

September 11, 2023

Podcast: ‘Regulation by Outrage’ Is a Detriment to Emerging Technologies, With Patrick Grady

Policy regarding new technologies can be reactionary, confused, and focused on the wrong things.

More publications by Robert D. Atkinson

Recent Events and Presentations

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.

June 13, 2023

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.

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.

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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