How Will Biden Approach Technology and Innovation Issues? New ITIF Report Examines President-Elect’s Policy Agenda

November 7, 2020

WASHINGTON—Technological innovation has been an ever-present subtext in the 2020 election season as politicians and the public have debated issues such as whether to regulate Internet platforms, how to produce more clean energy, and what the future of work will look like in an age of greater automation. Against this backdrop, a new report released today by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the world’s top-ranked think tank for science and technology policy, analyzes President-elect Joe Biden’s policy agenda on a range of tech-related issues, from the digital economy to trade policy, advanced manufacturing, life science, and clean energy.

“Based on his official positions and statements during the campaign, President-elect Biden will be taking a very different path than President Trump did. He is likely to focus on engaging government as a more active partner alongside industry in spurring innovation—but also as a tougher regulator of many tech industries and technologies,” says Robert D. Atkinson, ITIF’s president and lead author of the report. “A simple way to frame the new administration’s likely program on tech, innovation, and related trade policy is: more spending, more regulation, more multilateralism. Biden will most likely push for significant increases in public investment in areas like R&D—particularly in the clean energy sector—along with rural broadband and closing the digital divide, and education and training.”

The new ITIF report examines Biden’s positions in 10 key policy areas related to technology and innovation, including:

  • Innovation and Research and Development
  • Digital Economy
  • Broadband
  • Education and Skills
  • Taxes
  • Regulation
  • Trade
  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Life Sciences
  • Clean Energy Innovation.

Overall, the public record of President-elect Biden’s official positions and statements during the campaign provides an outline of the general philosophy that will likely guide his administration on technology and innovation policy:

  • The policy approach will likely be formulated to engage government as both an active partner with industry in supporting R&D and domestic production, and as a tougher regulator of many technology industries and technology areas, such as data privacy.
  • The new administration is likely to expand investment to achieve social goals, such as minority opportunity, regional growth, and climate solutions, while potentially cutting other areas, especially defense spending.
  • The president-elect has highlighted support for significantly increased public investment in R&D and advanced production.
  • He supports massive increases in clean energy R&D funding.
  • He has proposed significant increases in public investment in education and skills.
  • Biden questions Washington consensus on trade and has focused on being tough with China—but he supports a multilateral approach.
  • He embraces the traditional Democratic position on immigration, which has supported increases in both high- and low-skill immigration, but limits on H-1B visas.
  • Biden supports greater federal investment in rural broadband infrastructure and closing the digital divide.
  • He supports higher taxes on business, particularly large corporations.
  • He supports stronger regulations, including on privacy and broadband providers, and more aggressive antitrust enforcement, particularly on large Internet companies.
  • He supports significantly limiting Section 230 protections.

“The Biden administration is likely to focus its innovation policy more on addressing social policy goals than on increasing competitiveness, boosting productivity, or strengthening national security,” said Atkinson. “The president-elect’s priorities will likely include climate change, revitalizing economically distressed communities and regions, and supporting economic opportunities among disadvantaged groups, especially racial minorities. The new administration is likely to embrace increases in both high- and low-skill immigration, but overall limit work-based immigration. It is also far more likely than the previous administration to engage with international institutions and work closely with U.S. allies, but may be less assertive about confronting Chinese innovation mercantilism.”

Read the report.