Amid the recent activity frenzy of the 117th Congress, the press and general public have shifted from the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 to the climate and health provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act. The higher education community will benefit from a thorough reflection on the old legislative text. Based on our review of CHIPS and the Science Act – and our recent conversations with college and university leaders – we believe that many players in our industry may not yet grasp the magnitude extraordinary about the potential impact of this law.
In short, the CHIPS and Science Act, which was signed into law by President Biden on August 9, opens up transformative and unique opportunities for a wide range of institutions. While the scale of new funding opportunities for universities is seismic—we’ll talk about that in a moment—the law’s impact will go far beyond the Association of American Universities and other R-1 institutions ( very high research activity). Beyond the research mission, the act also authorizes funding for STEM-related higher education and workforce development at levels not seen since the beginnings of the space race in the United States. 1950s and 1960s. This funding should benefit smaller regional institutions, those most likely to struggle against complex headwinds since the start of the pandemic. Additionally, many provisions of the law are designed to ensure that a portion of funding is directed to historically black colleges and universities, minority-serving institutions, community colleges, and institutions in states that have historically not did not benefit from this type of federal support.
The opportunities created by the law will not be distributed evenly among the thousands of colleges and universities in the United States. These will be competitive processes. The institutions that start now Proactively mobilizing resources and positioning to receive funding will have a significant upside, as RFPs associated with these opportunities will be released in the months and years to come.
The first step is to review the provisions of the law. The law itself suggests some concrete actions that institutions can begin to take, though the details of some programs have yet to be determined, including the exact amounts of funds actually allocated to federal agencies.
Broaden the beneficiaries of funded research
The CHIPS Act acronym masks the reality that the law will support academic research and development far beyond the semiconductor industry. For the National Science Foundation, the law authorizes a total of $81 billion over five years (pending final appropriations), which would more than double the NSF’s current annual appropriation from about $9 billion for fiscal year 2022 to $18.9 billion in fiscal year 2027. .
Over the next five years, more than $16 billion will be allocated to a new Technology, Innovation and Partnerships Directorate, which will support research and technology commercialization in areas such as artificial intelligence , quantum computing, energy and materials science. Expanded funding is also allowed for basic research in areas such as the food-energy-water system, sustainable chemistry, critical minerals, information technology and behavioral health, and precision agriculture.
There is also funding for the social sciences. The newly created directorate is tasked, in part, with growing “the national workforce…in areas of societal, national, and geostrategic importance,” including in “the social, behavioral, and economic drivers and consequences of Technological innovations“.
The law ensures that this injection of research support will not exclusively benefit existing research-intensive institutions. The act creates a five-year pilot program for multi-institutional partnerships involving emerging research institutions (ERIs), defined as colleges or universities with less than $50 million in federal research expenditures, and calls for at least 35 percent of scholarships in this pilot project to travel to one or more ERIs.
In addition, the act authorizes funding to build the capacity of historically black colleges and universities, tribal colleges, and minority-serving institutions to successfully compete for and administer NSF grants of $200 million. dollars in fiscal year 2023 and $250 million in subsequent years. through fiscal year 2027. In addition, the act contains $150 million annually to study and implement approaches to attract and retain students from diverse backgrounds and institutions in STEM research fields. In other words, the law is designed not only to support short-term “gains” for US R&D productivity, but to diversify the institutions and the researchers themselves who conduct this work.
Cultivate a diverse STEM workforce
Beyond the implications for research, the law contains significant funding to support undergraduate and graduate education. Much of this comes in the form of new scholarship support, from the NSF and other federal agencies (e.g. Department of Energy), for a wide range of fields and professions. There are new scholarship and scholarship programs to support students studying, for example, cybersecurity and other STEM fields.
As with the research permissions discussed above, funding is targeted to historically underrepresented groups, including $100 million in NSF undergraduate scholarships for low-income students, with stipends for those studying in HBCUs, MSIs, community colleges and other categories.
Apart from scholarship and scholarship mechanisms, the law authorizes new scholarships to institutions to support the attraction and retention of students in STEM fields and to support institutions that provide STEM education to a high proportion of students. low-income students. The entire educational support in the act includes hundreds of millions of dollars in opportunities for institutions to diversify their streams of financial support away from reliance on tuition fees, while strengthening their educational missions.
Expand geographic participation
The act recognizes the role that colleges and universities play within their regional communities and contains mechanisms to support partnerships and impact beyond campuses. Through the Department of Commerce, the act provides $10 billion to establish 20 geographically distributed regional technology hubs – partnerships between for-profit companies, universities, local and federal government entities and community organizations to support “ the development and implementation of regional innovation strategies. “These projects have the potential to be a game-changer for selected institutions, enabling new collaborations and capital expenditures that could, for a few years, advance regional economic development that might otherwise take decades to materialize.
The law designates funding thresholds for state institutions EPSCoR (established program to stimulate competitive research), defined as those that have not historically benefited significantly from federal research funding. This requirement – whose push was led by Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi – ensures that a minimum proportion of NSF funding will go to EPSCoR states, many of which have predominantly rural populations, at a rate of 15.5% in fiscal year 2023, increase to 20% in fiscal year 2029.
Preparing to seize these opportunities
The new funding available through the CHIPS and Science Act will provide welcome support to many colleges and universities at a difficult and fluid time for higher education. While the funding levels can be extraordinary, the opportunities are also limited and will likely attract competition. Ambitious institutions have already begun to position themselves to seize these upcoming opportunities, and there is no reason to delay.
Institutions should begin with a thorough review of their strategic alignment with the various programs of the law. This review would contain a few essential elements: first, a review of the law itself, deepening the provisions, with particular attention to those that favor institutional profiles that align with its own. This analysis should be complemented by a reassessment of the institutional strategy that assesses the alignment of any existing strategic plan with the opportunities presented in the law. Next, the exercise should identify ways to reframe or reframe priorities to optimize this alignment. As institutions begin to develop proposals to receive funding from the Act, the ability to highlight how these opportunities will lead to broad institutional goals will be compelling to reviewers and decision makers.
Going further, institutions should consider creating a task force or project management office to focus on tracking relevant updates in federal agencies resulting from the act and building external relationships to improve the prepared to seize opportunities. An institution’s working group should include staff with expertise in government relations, focused on communicating with their congressional representation offices. The congressional delegation will share a desire to raise awareness of the law’s impact at home and may facilitate further communications with key relevant federal agencies.
For institutions interested in pursuing funds associated with regional technology hubs, the working group should also include staff in charge of corporate relations. The focus should be on strengthening existing relationships with the most important and relevant science and technology companies in your region and reaching out to those with whom relationships are not yet established. Much of the private sector’s access to law funding will come from partnerships with higher education. Many companies will likely appreciate the outreach, and some may even be willing to provide staff and other resources to help institutions prepare to pursue funding.
There’s something in the law for nearly every college and university in the country, and many of the institutions that will benefit the most may have little experience pursuing opportunities of this magnitude. Time may be running out, as the law allows funding but requires appropriations, which may reflect shifting political winds. Higher education officials should be quick to inspect the language of the law for the most relevant opportunities. Institutions should candidly assess their ability to pursue these funding opportunities and take steps to seize them quickly.