The White House announced that it will provide more than $300 million to support science and technology on the day of the White House Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh.

“President Obama, from the very beginning of his administration, has understood why science, technology and innovation matters,” said John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Holdren said that Obama is the most technologically savvy president since Thomas Jefferson and  that there’s a lot more research to understand today than there was in Jefferson’s time. Holdren said these projects prove Obama’s seriousness about innovation and technology policy.

The total amount of funding announced on Thursday is broken down into separate categories.

  • $70 million from the National Institutes of Health will be given to researchers to understand Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, depression, and traumatic brain injuries.
  • $16 million and four partners will be added to the Precision Medicine Initiative to expand its national research study, which seeks to improve medical care.
  • $165 million in public and private funds will go to smart cities that tackle challenges such as traffic congestion issues.
  • $50 million in Federal funds will support small-satellite technology, which enables high-speed Internet connectivity and continuously updated imagery of the Earth.

The countries participating in Mission Innovation, an initiative to combat climate change, will increase their funding of clean-energy research and development over the next five years to $30 billion per year. The administration announced $4 billion in commitments to finance clean energy innovations and climate change solutions.

The White House also announced a space-weather Executive Order to coordinate efforts to prepare the nation for space-weather events.

Additionally, the administration noted that the Police Data Initiative and the Data-Driven Justice Initiative have each grown to over 100 communities since their beginning.

This week, the White House also announced its goal to send humans back and forth from Mars by the 2030s.

When asked if multi-year missions to Mars will begin soon, Holdren said, “There is absolutely no shortage of volunteers.”

Holdren said that the administration has plenty of talent that wish to spend year or even the rest of their lives on another planet.

The government has also been searching the galaxies for signs of intelligent life by listening for radio signals. Holdren said this is possible because most stars similar to the Sun also have planets.

“It’s a fascinating issue,” Holdren said. “No doubt about it.”

The White House also announced its plan for the future of artificial intelligence Wednesday.

“There’s been an explosion of interest in artificial intelligence,” Holdren said.

The administration’s artificial intelligence priorities are the economic impact it will have, research and development that needs to be conducted, and safety and regulation, according to Ed Felten, deputy U.S. chief technology officer.

These initiatives have the probability to continue into the next administration, according to Holdren.

“The bulk of these initiatives are in domains that are supported on a bipartisan basis,” Holdren said. “My hope would be that these initiatives would be supported, for the most part, going forward on a bipartisan basis.”

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Morgan Lynch
Morgan Lynch
Morgan Lynch is a Staff Reporter for MeriTalk covering Federal IT and K-12 Education.