In April 2021, an interdisciplinary team of Carnegie Mellon University faculty from the College of Engineering, Mellon College of Science, and Heinz College was tapped to carry out a moonshot grant that would support the development of intellectual foundations, data, and tools required to identify and support strategic action by governments around technologies critical for ensuring the security, prosperity, and welfare of all citizens.
More than two years later, the National Technology Strategy team, led by Erica Fuchs, has leveraged initial support from the College of Engineering in order to form policy briefings for government entities, secure additional funding for related endeavors, and disseminate research findings.
Most notably, Fuchs has spearheaded the National Network for Critical Technology Assessment (NNCTA) through a $4 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP). The initiative has convened academics from 13 research institutions across the country to demonstrate how analytics could uniquely inform National Technology Strategy across government missions and to define a vision for critical technology assessment, including current capabilities, gaps, and the national investment and organizational form needed to realize that vision.
“The moonshot was pivotal in demonstrating the initial ‘proof of concept’ that such analytics were possible and could inform government strategy and build the foundations for our national efforts in a timely fashion,” said Fuchs, a professor of engineering and public policy.
NNCTA recently shared their report, Securing America’s Future: A Framework for Critical Technology Assessment, in partnership with the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation and the Hamilton Project at Brookings at the National Academy of Sciences.
“This assessment can ensure that the country makes smart investments in the new technologies vital to national security, prosperity, and broad-based social well-being,” said Fuchs.
The moonshot was pivotal in demonstrating the initial ‘proof of concept’ that such analytics were possible and could inform government strategyErica Fuchs, Professor, Engineering and Public Policy and Director, National Network for Critical Technology Assessment
By examining a wide range of critical technologies such as artificial intelligence, semiconductors, biopharmaceuticals, energy, and critical materials, the report demonstrates that while data and analytics can meaningfully inform national technology strategy, the necessary capabilities do not sit with one discipline, investigator, or type of organization. The findings have set the foundation for the establishment of the Assessing and Predicting Technology Outcomes program. Through the program, the NSF will support projects aimed to assess the effectiveness of research and development pertaining to a specific technology’s capabilities, production, and use, as well as to create models for decision-makers to optimize investments and advance U.S. competitiveness.
Moonshot initiatives are a significant way in which the College of Engineering provides faculty with a springboard for longer-term visionary work in research areas where Carnegie Mellon is uniquely positioned to make substantial contributions.
Since the onset of the moonshot grant, Fuchs has maintained a strong presence, weighing in on the need for data and analytic tools to support national technology decision-making, having testified on Capitol Hill in front of both House and Senate committees and serving on President Biden’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations. She has also been elected to the board of the National Semiconductor Technology Center (NSTC).