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), 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; and the Trump administration appointed him to the G7 Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence. Atkinson serves 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 founding 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 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 U.S. Government Accountability Office’s Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics team. He is also an adjunct professor at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service.

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

January 18, 2022

Broadband populists have engaged in an aggressive campaign to disparage the performance of the U.S. broadband system, which is driven by intermodal competition between large ISPs, in order to build a case for government-owned and operated networks.

January 14, 2022

In the 127 industries for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics has data on prices available to cross-reference with Census data on concentration, the correlation is 0.0096. On the other hand, data is becoming passe these days. So, as long as you *feel* concentration is causing inflation, feel free to believe it, too.

January 12, 2022

A parody of EU President Charles Michel’s recent speech.

January 7, 2022

America’s big five tech firms—Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook—often seem invincible, destined to become ever-more powerful as the digital world continually expands.

January 6, 2022

Stop listening to the hype, either the techno-utopian hype that says the “AI revolution” will be greater than the First Industrial Revolution or the techno-dystopians who say all is lost. The reality is that AI is just computer code.

January 3, 2022

With the rise of China, the United States needs more than a competitiveness strategy; it needs a policy specifically tailored to boost production and innovation capacity in strategically important industries—especially technologically sophisticated ones with dual-use capabilities.

January 3, 2022

Congress can get things done when they are seen as broadly in the national interest. Now is the time to shore up the competitive position of key strategic industries so America can continue to be the leading global power and outcompete China militarily, economically, and technologically.

January 3, 2022

Rob and Jackie sat down with Rob Dickinson, co-founder and CEO of Resurface Labs, to discuss the future of APIs and the implications for public policy.

December 20, 2021

In the quest for “payfors” for the Build Back Better spending package, Senate Democrats have proposed a 15 percent minimum tax on corporations in the United States with at least $1 billion in annual “book value” profits. But as structured it is bad public policy—not only because it risks politicizing how companies book profits under FASB rules, but also because it will reduce the value of certain tax incentives companies have been given to advance key public-interest goals.

December 13, 2021

Congress is poised to expand funding for U.S. competitiveness. But a one-time infusion of resources is not enough: The federal government needs to formulate and implement a coherent advanced-industry competitiveness strategy.

December 13, 2021

Rob and Jackie sat down with Dr. Juan Gilbert, chair of the University of Florida’s Computer & Information Science & Engineering Department, to discuss how the United States has fallen behind in recruiting students in science, technology, engineering, and math and what policymakers, universities, and industries can do diversify their candidate pools.

December 9, 2021

Slowing China down is critical in part because it will give leading technology companies in U.S.-allied nations time to adjust and invest in the next generation of technology to maintain their lead over China.

Recent Events and Presentations

January 11, 2022

ITIF hosted a discussion of what a robust national strategic-industry policy should—and should not—entail.

December 15, 2021

Rob Atkinson was the keynote speaker at the Ministries of Korea Global Policy Conference on the 4th Industrial Revolution on December 15th, 2021.

December 2, 2021

The Global Trade and Innovation Policy Alliance (GTIPA) represents a network of more than 40 world-leading think tanks dedicated to advancing a positive view of trade, globalization, and innovation

September 9, 2021

ITIF hosted an expert panel discussion on postal reform legislation, and how to ensure the continued viability of USPS as a deliverer of both mail and packages.

June 22, 2021

Rob Atkinson was a guest on "The Creative Life" by ThinkTech Hawaii to discuss promoting policies in innovation economics, and described how to close the divide through creative self-sustaining growth centers.

June 16, 2021

ITIF hosted an in-depth discussion with members of the Biden Administration about the report, implications for policy, and potential next steps.

June 15, 2021

Watch the launch of ITIF's Schumpeter Project on Competition Policy in the Innovation Economy. An expert panel will respond to the presentation of an important new ITIF report outlining a set of guiding principles for “dynamic antitrust.”

June 10, 2021

Watch our overview of this research, including sectoral analysis of five advanced industries: telecommunications equipment, biopharmaceuticals, solar photovoltaics, semiconductors, and high-speed rail. ITIF analysts will discuss how Chinese policies affect global innovation and steps allied nations can take to mitigate the harm.

June 8, 2021

ITIF hosted an expert panel discussion discussing EU-US digital trade relations and what both governments should do to foster closer relations without sacrificing U.S. digital innovation.

May 10, 2021

Rob Atkinson particpated in a an expert Q&A panel on VMT fee transition and implementation hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

April 20, 2021

ITIF hosted an expert panel discussion to explore the economic, health, and social effects that may persist post-COVID.

April 19, 2021

ITIF hosted a robust debate on this question. Professor Michael Klare has written that “Biden’s Tough Stance on China Will Lead to Global Climate Doom.” He argued that cooperation is essential and can be done in parallel without weakening the U.S. negotiating position on other matters. ITIF President Rob Atkinson tackled the opposing position.

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