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gram, managed by the National Science and Technology Council, honors and supports the extraordinary achievements of young professionals for their independent research contributions.48 The White House, following recommendations from participating agencies, confers the awards annually.

New awards could encourage risk taking; offer the potential for financial or non-remunerative payoffs, such as wider recognition for important work; and inspire and educate the public about current issues of national interest. The National Academy of Engineering has concluded that prizes encourage nontraditional participants, stimulate development of potentially useful but under funded technology, encourage new uses for existing technology, and foster the diffusion of technology.49

For those reasons, the committee proposes that the new Presidential Innovation Award be managed in a way similar to that of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers. OSTP already identifies the nation’s science and technology priorities each year as part of the budget memorandum it develops jointly with the Office of Management and Budget. This year’s topics are a good starting point for fields in which innovation awards (perhaps one award for each research topic) could be given:

  • Homeland security R&D.

  • High-end computing and networking R&D.

  • National nanotechnology initiative.

  • High-temperature and organic superconductors.

  • Molecular electronics.

  • Wide-band-gap and photonic materials.

  • Thin magnetic films.

  • Quantum condensates.

  • Infrastructure (next-generation light sources and instruments with subnanometer resolution).

  • Understanding complex biological systems (focused on collaborations with physical, computational, behavioral, social, and biological researchers and engineers).

  • Energy and the environment (natural hazard assessment, disaster warnings, climate variability and change, oceans, global freshwater supplies, novel materials, and production mechanisms for hydrogen fuel).


The participating agencies are the National Science Foundation, National Science and Technology Council, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health, Department of Transportation, and Department of Veterans Affairs.


National Academy of Engineering. Concerning Federally Sponsored Inducement Prizes in Engineering and Science. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1999.

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