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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.

5 Myths About Life Science Innovation in the United States

(0) Comments | Posted April 6, 2016 | 12:00 AM

(This post originally appeared on

There has long been a de facto consensus among U.S. policymakers that America's system for discovering and developing new drugs is the world's best, and that there are two reasons for that success: First, the federal government provides robust funding for scientific...

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Europe's Real Opportunity in the Digital Economy

(0) Comments | Posted March 9, 2016 | 4:27 PM

The European Commission has embarked on an ambitious journey to create a seamless 28-country market for digital goods and services in Europe. It is a journey that carries great hopes and expectations, because while there has been considerable progress since 1992 in establishing a single European market for goods, there...

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The Demography of Innovation in the United States: Who Innovates and How Do They Succeed?

(0) Comments | Posted February 25, 2016 | 10:31 AM

(This post--which originally appeared on -- was co-authored by Adams Nager, economic policy analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.)

Behind every technological innovation is an individual or a team of individuals responsible for the hard scientific or engineering work. And behind each of...

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Bring on the Robots, Please!

(3) Comments | Posted February 1, 2016 | 7:47 AM

John Maynard Keynes once famously said that the difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas but in escaping from old ones. And one of the oldest and most pervasive and pernicious economic ideas is that technology kills jobs.

Economist David Ricardo worried about this in the early...

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No, Piracy Is Not the Sincerest Form of Flattery

(1) Comments | Posted January 14, 2016 | 2:29 PM

Post co-authored by Alan McQuinn, research assistant at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

During the holidays, the piracy-tracking firm Excipio released its annual list of the most-pirated films of 2015, showing that the number of illegal downloads from peer-to-peer networks had dramatically increased in the...

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President Obama's Final State of the Union and the 2016 Presidential Campaign

(0) Comments | Posted January 12, 2016 | 3:50 PM

President Obama's final State of the Union address serves both as a marker for his last year in office and as a reference point (and foil) for candidates on both sides of the 2016 presidential race. So the State of the Union speech that the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation...

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Why Internet Platforms Don't Need Special Regulation

(0) Comments | Posted January 5, 2016 | 1:50 PM

From city halls around the country to Washington, DC, and other world capitals, lawmakers and regulators lately have come under intense pressure to regulate upstart Internet market platforms such as Uber, Airbnb, UpCounsel, and Heal, as they rapidly transform entire sectors of the economy by providing simple and elegant new...

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3 Big Things 'Back to the Future' Got Right (Thanks to Government)

(6) Comments | Posted October 21, 2015 | 11:47 AM

Today is the day that Michael J. Fox's iconic character Marty McFly landed in a future that Hollywood imagined almost 30 years ago in Back to the Future II. It turns out that many of the amazing things McFly saw in the movie have indeed come to pass--from 3D video...

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What Presidential Candidates Should Stand for on Tech and the Economy

(0) Comments | Posted June 17, 2015 | 9:48 AM

As of this week, there are 16 declared candidates in the 2016 presidential sweepstakes, with at least five more waiting in the wings. This makes for a rich cacophony of themes, messages, and policy proposals. But at the end of the day, this campaign really should be about...

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Solidifying a Gold Standard TPP

(2) Comments | Posted March 6, 2015 | 1:31 PM

As someone who has studied global economic trends for decades, something great is potentially about to happen. Leaders from 12 nations across the Pacific Rim region, including the U.S., Canada, Japan, and Mexico, are about to reach an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade deal that has been...

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Separating Fact from Fiction in the TPP

(0) Comments | Posted October 24, 2014 | 12:14 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 | 4:36 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 | 11:36 AM

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 | 10:31 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 | 12:35 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 | 1:11 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 | 1:49 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 | 4:47 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 | 2:20 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 | 3:20 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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