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Robert D. Atkinson, Ph.D.
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Robert Atkinson is the founder and president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a Washington, DC-based technology policy think tank. He is also author of Innovation Economics: The Race for Global Advantage (Yale, 2012), the book, The Past And Future Of America’s Economy: Long Waves Of Innovation That Power Cycles Of Growth (Edward Elgar, 2005), and the State New Economy Index series. He has an extensive background in technology policy, he has conducted ground-breaking research projects on technology and innovation, is a valued adviser to state and national policy makers, and a popular speaker on innovation policy nationally and internationally.

Before coming to ITIF, Dr. Atkinson was Vice President of the Progressive Policy Institute and Director of PPI’s Technology & New Economy Project. While at PPI he wrote numerous research reports on technology and innovation policy, including on issues such as broadband telecommunications, e-commerce and e-government, privacy, copyright, the R&D tax credit, offshoring, and innovation economics.

Previously Dr. Atkinson served as the first Executive Director of the Rhode Island Economic Policy Council, a public-private partnership including as members the Governor, legislative leaders, and corporate and labor leaders. As head of RIEPC, he was responsible for drafting a comprehensive economic strategic development plan for the state, developing a ten-point economic development plan, and working to successfully implement all ten proposals through the legislative and administrative branches. Prior to that he was Project Director at the former Congressional Office of Technology Assessment. While at OTA, he directed The Technological Reshaping of Metropolitan America, a seminal report examining the impact of the information technology revolution on America’s urban areas.

President Clinton appointed Dr. Atkinson to the Commission on Workers, Communities, and Economic Change in the New Economy; the Bush administration appointed him chair of Congressionally-created National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission; and the Obama administration appointed him to the National Innovation and Competitiveness Strategy Advisory Board. In addition, he was named by the White House Office of Science and Policy as co-chair of China-U.S. Innovation Policy Experts Group.

He is a member of the Task Force on National Security in the Information Age, co-chaired by Markle Foundation president Zoe Baird and former Netscape Communications chairman James Barksdale. Atkinson is also a board member or advisory council member of the Internet Education Foundation, NetChoice Coalition, and the University of Oregon Institute for Policy Research and Innovation, and the State Science and Technology Institute.  He also serves on the advisory panel to Americans for Computer Privacy, a member of the editorial board 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, and a fellow of the Glocomm, a Tokyo-based research institute.

In 2011, Washingtonian Magazine named him a “Tech Titan”. Ars Technica listed Atkinson as one of 2009’s tech policy People to Watch. In 2006, Inc. Magazine listed Atkinson as one of 19 Friends of Small Business in Washington. In 2002, he was awarded the Wharton Infosys Business Transformation Award Silver Medal. In addition, Government Technology Magazine and the Center for Digital Government named him one of the 25 top Doers, Dreamers and Drivers of Information Technology. 

Dr. Atkinson has testified before a number of committees in Congress and has appeared in various media outlets including CNBC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, NPR, and NBC Nightly News. He received his Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1989, where he was awarded the distinguished Joseph E. Pogue Fellowship.

Entries by Robert D. Atkinson, Ph.D.

Separating Fact from Fiction in the TPP

(0) Comments | Posted October 24, 2014 | 1:14 PM

This weekend, trade ministers from the 12 nations negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement will gather in Australia for yet another round of high-level talks. When finalized, the TPP could play an important role in further integrating the economies of the participating countries, which include the U.S. and 11...

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Modi Should Foster Innovation Climate to Transform India

(1) Comments | Posted June 13, 2014 | 5:36 PM

Last month, India concluded a groundbreaking election that saw the ouster of the country's ruling Congress party and the installation of a new government with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the helm. Prime Minister Modi and his BJP colleagues have articulated a grand vision...

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Selling the President's Ambitious Trade Agenda

(1) Comments | Posted February 6, 2014 | 12:36 PM

Two lines -- that's what the most ambitious trade agenda in two decades received in President Obama's State of the Union address.

Obviously, any issue receiving mention in a State of the Union is a big deal, as it's a signal of an administration's top priorities. But one gets...

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Advocates Should Focus on Our Real Competitiveness Problems

(0) Comments | Posted January 2, 2014 | 11:31 AM

While I expect populist "public interest" groups to oppose trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), I have to say I was taken aback to see The Coalition for a Prosperous America come out in such staunch opposition to the TPP. CPA, a group that ITIF has had...

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What Emerging Knowledge Economy?

(28) Comments | Posted August 29, 2013 | 1:35 PM

It's not uncommon for many college education and STEM advocates to claim that the fastest growing occupations over the next decade will require a college education and/or STEM skills. In this view, the economy is shedding low skill jobs (either from automation or trade) and America is specializing in high-wage,...

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Time for Secretary Kerry to Get Tough with India

(14) Comments | Posted June 27, 2013 | 2:11 PM

Secretary of State John Kerry was in India this week for the fourth U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue. Secretary Kerry's mission is designed to enhance what has been a traditionally strong trade and diplomatic relationship between the two countries. Unfortunately, storm clouds loom on the horizon that need to be addressed to...

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If We Do Not Fix Immigration, Canada May Solve the Problem for Us

(29) Comments | Posted June 10, 2013 | 2:49 PM

The debate over immigration reform in the United States continues to rage, with groups on both the left and right attempting to derail the compromise package now working its way through the Senate. Advocates across the political spectrum need to recognize that while we argue about immigration our global competitors...

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Charting a Better Path Forward for Indian Economic Growth

(30) Comments | Posted May 24, 2013 | 5:47 PM

India has achieved remarkable economic success over the last 30 years. Once wed to closed-market, "small is beautiful" policies that severely curtailed growth, by the 1990s India had embraced the core tenets of economic liberalization and open trade. As a result, its once-meandering economy began to grow rapidly, showing liberalization's...

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Minimum Wage/Maximum Growth

(26) Comments | Posted February 21, 2013 | 3:20 PM

In his State of the Union Address president Obama proposed that Congress increase the minimum wage to $9.00 per hour.

Almost immediately a chorus of opposition based on neoclassical economics emerged, arguing that such a change would kill job creation. As former Bush Administration economist Greg Mankiw notes, "there is...

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So You Want Green Energy, New Medicines and Flying Cars? You Need the Federal Government

(3) Comments | Posted February 8, 2013 | 4:20 PM

Everyone who's anyone is publishing manifestos, blogs, e-books, and the like, warning that innovation and growth is over. Economists Tyler Cowen and Robert Gordon have received notoriety for asserting that stagnation is the new norm. The American Enterprise Institute worries that "The Computer Revolution is Already Over."...

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I (Want) Robot

(0) Comments | Posted January 17, 2013 | 12:09 PM

The new meme is that the robots are coming, and while they are not the Arnold Schwarzenegger "life terminator," they are the jobs terminator. As MIT professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee assert in their book Race Against the Machine, workers are "losing the race against the machine, a fact...

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India's Recent Trade Policies Put Domestic, International Growth at Risk

(3) Comments | Posted October 31, 2012 | 3:01 PM

Throughout the 2012 election cycle, China and Iran have dominated the foreign policy discussion. But after Election Day, policymakers will need to address a looming threat to American innovation and jobs: India, whose recent troubling mercantilist trade practices have set off alarm bells, as U.S. and European firms vie for...

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The Presidential Debate We Really Need

(10) Comments | Posted October 22, 2012 | 4:02 PM

As the Presidential campaign intensifies, we are hearing a lot of charges and counter-charges about what caused the Great Recession, what the federal government should or should not have done, and whether we need more stimulus or spending cuts. That's absolutely the wrong debate. What we need is a debate...

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Eroding Our Foundation

(5) Comments | Posted October 16, 2012 | 11:27 AM

January 2013 will not only see the inauguration of a President, it could mean massive federal budget cuts through what is known as the sequestration, which because of the Budget Control Act, will lead to mandatory cuts in discretionary spending to achieve $1.2 trillion in savings from 2013-2021, unless Congress...

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America's Looming IP Drain

(3) Comments | Posted September 19, 2012 | 10:11 AM

The great 19th Century author and poet Robert Louis Stevenson was known to have once said, "Everybody, sooner or later, sits down to a banquet of consequences."

Amid sharp differences on how to jumpstart our nation's economy, we've lost sight of a direct and near-term threat to our economic well-being:...

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Green Mercantilism Is a Threat to the Clean Energy Economy

(18) Comments | Posted June 29, 2012 | 5:54 PM

As you read this, the United States is in a race with other countries for leadership of the rapidly growing clean energy economy. Fueled by the potential for economic growth and job creation, countries are aggressively trying to build competitive advantage in the development and production of low-carbon technologies. But...

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Worse Than the Great Depression: What Experts Are Missing About American Manufacturing's Decline

(1) Comments | Posted March 20, 2012 | 5:58 PM

In the 2000s, U.S. manufacturing suffered its worst performance in American history. Not only did America lose 5.7 million manufacturing jobs, but the decline as a share of total jobs (33 percent) exceeded the rate of loss in the Great Depression.

Despite this unprecedented negative performance, most economists, pundits...

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Antiquated Economic Policies Are Killing Jobs More Than Robots

(26) Comments | Posted December 9, 2011 | 3:18 PM

Why can't we create jobs the way we used to? Despite nearly a trillion dollars' worth of tax breaks and investments in a stimulus package, interest rates as low as they can go, auto bailouts, bank bailouts, "quantitative easing," and public and private sector leaders' calls for optimism, the official...

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Let's Get the Trans-Pacific Partnership Right

(0) Comments | Posted May 26, 2011 | 5:54 PM

The Obama Administration is wisely moving forward with a landmark trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). With origins in the Bush Administration, the TPP would increase regional economic integration between the United States and eight other Asia-Pacific nations: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. The...

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The Corporate Tax Simplification Delusion

(0) Comments | Posted February 16, 2011 | 11:53 AM

When President Obama, in his State of the Union, called on Congress to join with him to, "get rid of the loopholes. Level the playing field. And use the savings to lower the corporate tax rate for the first time in 25 years -- without adding to our deficit," he...

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