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A report that will be released Wednesday from the bipartisan Aspen Cybersecurity Group suggests that the United States is losing its grip as a global innovation leader and needs government action to resecure its edge.

Why it matters: Innovation isn't just an economic issue (though it is certainly that). It has huge national security and geopolitical implications, too.

  • "Will America lead the technology that secures Americans?" asked Lisa Monaco, co-chair of the Aspen group, in an interview with Axios. "Will American values be reflected in the technologies of the future?"

The Aspen Cybersecurity Group is co-chaired by Monaco, Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty. Its members include 2 former heads of the NSA, high ranking executives from Apple, Facebook, Johnson & Johnson and Duke Energy, and several prominent academics.

The big picture: The U.S. faces substantial competition in innovation from China. Even countries like South Korea and Israel outspend the United States in government funding for research.

  • The Aspen report identifies 5 factors behind America's tech leadership: the decimation of infrastructure in competing nations from World War II, federal spending on foundational science, importing innovators through immigration, Cold War competition and spending on education.
  • The U.S. can't (and shouldn't) hope to replicate its "world war victor" advantage. But, per the report, lawmakers can and should leverage the other 4 categories — even though so much recent legislation has moved in the opposite direction.

The proposal: The Aspen report advocates...

  • Federal funding of half the total U.S. R&D budget — that was the norm until the 1980s when privately funded research took over. It has since declined further. The government currently funds around 22.5% of basic research.
  • Increasing the tolerance for risk in research, including funding curiosity-based science with no clear application.
  • Increased education spending, including training in tech ethics and strategically retraining people who started in other career paths. That would expand the potential workforce while introducing other fields' modes of thought into the tech world.
  • Bolstering the tech workforce at all levels through immigration.
  • Easing barriers to trade while improving protections on intellectual property theft.
  • Focusing on moonshot-like goals to increase urgency and provide deadlines.

Go deeper

47 mins ago - World

WHO revises air quality guidelines to reduce deaths from pollution

Smoke from California wildfires over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco in August 2021. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Wednesday updated air quality guidelines it set roughly 15 years ago, saying that negative health effects from air pollutants can begin at lower levels than it previously thought.

Why it matters: The changes are meant to reduce deaths from pollutants that cause cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and prematurely kill an estimated 7 million people around the world annually, according to the WHO.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
2 hours ago - Energy & Environment

The road to COP26 gets slightly easier

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The bad diplomatic vibes heading into the critical United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, might be improving slightly.

Catch up fast: Chinese President Xi Jinping yesterday pledged to end overseas finance for building new coal-fired power plants and boost support for clean energy in developing nations.

Corporations turn focus to retaining frontline workers

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Companies are narrowing the blue- and white-collar experience as they're forced to adapt to a worker-led market.

Driving the news: Basic office tools and concepts like corporate communications and schedule flexibility are migrating to frontline operations through investments in technology.