Owen-Smith gets grant to help measure public investments in emerging industries

November 6, 2023

The Institute for Research on Innovation and Science (IRIS) has received a $4.5 million federal grant to study how public investments in emerging industries can impact economic development in key technological areas. Jason Owen-Smith, executive director of IRIS and professor of sociology in LSA, is courtesy faculty at the Ford school.

The project, titled “Industries of Ideas: A prototype system for measuring the effects of TIP investments on firms and jobs,” will be led by researchers at the University of Michigan as well as The Ohio State University’s Ohio Education Research Center and the Social Science Research Council.

The project will create a new “people-centric” approach to studying the impact of scientific investments. Researchers will monitor the flow of ideas from federally funded research to the broader marketplace by identifying and tracking businesses using particularly innovative approaches to key technology.

The project is funded by the National Science Foundation’s new Technology, Innovations and Partnerships directorate. The funds will be used to assess the value of investments the agency made in regional firms and jobs in several important fields, initially focusing on artificial intelligence and electric vehicles in Ohio.

“This project will demonstrate a new means for NSF, universities and states to use timely data to understand, explain and improve the effects research investments in critical technology areas have on people’s lives, the economy and jobs,” said Owen-Smith.

“Rather than tracking documents or key words, our project relies on learning about how skilled people with cutting-edge expertise move into innovative areas of the economy as a means to identify these effects.”

The project initially is focused on the artificial intelligence and electric vehicle sectors in Ohio but will be built to be expanded to other industries across the country.

IRIS data on the career trajectories of research-funded employees at leading universities, as well as employment data collected by the Ohio Education Research Center, will be used to track the flow of talent into emerging industries.

“NSF’s strategic investments in key technologies warrant innovative tools to accurately assess the impact of these investments across the U.S.,” said TIP Assistant Director Erwin Gianchandani.

“The Industries of Ideas project will develop a prototype to better understand the impact of NSF’s efforts through the new TIP directorate, providing rich, descriptive analyses of the interplay between our investments and people, jobs and regional economies.”

The TIP directorate was established by the federal CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, which authorized $20 billion in new spending through the agency through 2027.

IRIS is housed at U-M’s Institute for Social Research and collects record-level administrative data from its member institutions to produce a de-identified dataset for research and reporting on the impacts of public investments in science. Its mission is to be a trusted resource for high-quality data that supports independent, frontier research on science and innovation in the service of the public interest.

This article was written by Jon Meerdink, Institute for Social Research, and Dan Meisler, Institute for Research on Innovation and Science.