Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Federal R&D Spending

I tend to think of federal spending as an investment - the returns may not always be monetary, and we may not agree that the expected returns are even a good thing - but to me, it is an investment nonetheless. Looking at the issue through that lens, one of the most efficient forms of federal spending (with regard to both intangible and monetary returns) is R&D grants.

I attended a briefing last week in which I learned that the Human Genome Project was made possible by a $3.8 billion dollar grant awarded over 13 years by the DOE/NIH. Since its completion in 2003, the world has seen roughly $796 billion in economic activity driven either directly or indirectly by the HGP, much of which has been in America. In 2010 alone, HGP-related economic activity generated roughly $67 billion, and supported 310,000 jobs. ( It has created or bolstered entire industries, ranging from personal genetics testing, paternity tests, forensics, biofuels, healthcare, agriculture, and many more.

Oh, and we've sequenced the human genome, which is quite a leap forward for humanity.

In terms of bang for your buck, I don't see a better form of federal spending.

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