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Lawmaker and director of NSF warn of delays to supporting US tech research

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Silicon Valley's U.S. Democratic Representative Ro Khanna and the director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Sethuraman Panchanathan speak against delays to funding for U.S. research in the face of surging technology investment by rivals such as China, to venture capitalists, academic leaders and tech company executives, in Santa Clara, California, U.S., May 5, 2023. REUTERS/Jane Lanhee Lee

Santa Clara, California, May 5 (Reuters) - Silicon Valley's U.S. Democratic Representative Ro Khanna and the head of the National Science Foundation (NSF) cautioned on Friday against delays to financing for U.S. research in the face of growing technological investment by competitors such as China.

While the CHIPS and Science Act approved the NSF's budget of $81 billion over five years, which could treble the yearly budget by 2027, the foundation's head, Sethuraman Panchanathan, told Reuters he was afraid the funds may be delayed.

The measure was approved by President Joe Biden last year as the U.S. attempts to bring back chip production and keep a competitive advantage on technology against enemies, in particular China.

"The time is now. This is an essential opportunity not to relinquish leadership in any developing technology," Panchanathan added.

The NSF is a government institution that sponsors a major amount of science and engineering, including research at universities.

It has a budget of $8.8 billion for the fiscal year of 2022, and Panchanathan said a boost in funding would assist sustain the NSF's Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships, termed TIP.

TIP is the agency's first new directorate in more than 30 years and would assist identify research, a lot of it currently supported by the NSF, that may become technological products, he added.

The directorate would assist build up an ecosystem of academics, corporates, venture capitalists, and others to help researchers and startups get off the ground.

Panchanathan and Khanna visited over two dozen venture investors, startup CEOs, and some major tech business executives in Santa Clara, California to discuss the CHIPS and Science Act.

"We're under-investing in research in America. We are reaching record lows," Khanna told Reuters. "China is spending significantly on these technologies that we would need to compete. And this is a first substantial investment in it."

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