President Obama’s State of the Union remarks on America’s “Sputnik moment” emphasized energy independence as a key ingredient of the nation’s competitive renewal-a worthy point, to be sure. But if he’d mentioned robotics as another key ingredient, he would have echoed an issue raised by the conservative Heritage Foundation in a November 2009 report, Robotics and the Next Steps for National Security.
Among the talking points listed: “Without competitive robotics design and manufacture, America’s economy and defense will be in the hands of other countries that have spent the early 21st century developing robot technologies.” The report calls for “a new legislative framework” that’s “needed to encourage robotic innovation,” and it would make for a good leave-behind next time you visit your congressmen or state economic development officials.
In fact, the White House plans to make robotics R&D a component of the FY2012 budget, according to an Administration statement last September. “As part of this effort,” the statement read, “five agencies teamed up to issue a joint solicitation for small business research for ‘Robotics Technology Development and Deployment‘ [RTD2]. Small businesses can apply for research funding for a wide range of topics, including robot-assisted rehabilitation, robotics for drug discovery, and robots that can disarm explosive devices.”
The White House statement concludes with this note: “Expect to see more to come in the months ahead from a newly energized and collaborative Federal robotics community!”
Let’s hold ’em to it.