Recent work in the social and behavioral sciences has suggested that federal research funds have historically galvanized regional economic growth near university campuses. For example, federal research investments made during World War II accelerated innovation-led economic growth in regions near funded research institutions, like the Massachusetts Route 128 technology corridor with close ties to the Harvard and MIT wartime radar labs (Gross and Sampat 2023). Likewise, NASA “Moonshot” research investments made during the 1960s spurred economic development in counties with funded research institutions (Kantor and Whalley 2023). 

More generally, federally-funded university research has historically led to the founding of many successful startups by funded researchers (Babina et al 2023), and has also attracted established firms to locate near university campuses, contributing to research-led local economic growth (Hausman 2022). Research funding is even associated with better economic outcomes for the students taught by recipients of research awards (Biasi and Ma 2023).

The empirical evidence suggests that federally funded research has historically galvanized regional economic growth near university campuses. But federal research investments in new and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence may not have the same positive economic effects as previous research investments (Lane 2023). Moreover, researchers have lacked access to the granular data that would enable them to estimate the firm-level impacts of the movement of grant-funded scientific talent from universities into regional economies. 

The Industries of Ideas project will build a data infrastructure enabling better estimates of the economic impacts of federal research investments in emerging technologies, advancing the knowledge frontier and providing stakeholders with the information they need to both map and accelerate innovation-led economic growth.