Last month the White House Office of Management & Budget (OMB) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) sent their annual budget guidance memo (PDF) on science and technology issues to the heads of executive branch departments and agencies. The memo describes the Administration's S&T priorities for agencies to incorporate in their preparation of the FY 2015 budget submissions, due to OMB later this year. OMB and OSTP encourage agencies to identify and pursue "Grand Challenges," described as "ambitious goals that require advances in science, technology and innovation to achieve, and to support high-risk, high-return research." Many of the listed priorities echo those seen in prior years, and include:
- Advanced manufacturing, focusing on industry/university partnerships and enabling technologies in robotics, materials, and cyber-physical systems;
- Clean energy technology and efficiency;
- Climate change, with emphases on drought, Arctic impacts, and predictive capabilities;
- Information technology dealing with Big Data and cybersecurity;
- National security, with emphases on hypersonics, advanced computing, and countering weapons of mass destruction;
- Biological innovation and neuroscience, referencing the President's BRAIN Initiative and research at the intersection of biology, physical science, and engineering;
- and STEM education, with particular focus on the Administration's major reorganization of education programs. The reorganization has not been met with great acceptance by Congress, but promises to remain on the agenda next year.
The memo also highlights the general need to improve federal support for innovation and commercialization of emerging technologies, with an eye towards small business and the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Lastly, the memo prioritizes the need for R&D investment to improve decision-making throughout the mission agencies.