Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog

  • Statement by John P. Holdren on the Successful Test Launch and Recovery of the Orion Spacecraft

    Upon successful launch and recovery of the Orion spacecraft on Friday, December 5, 2014, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John P. Holdren issued the following statement:

    "With today’s successful test launch and recovery of the Orion spacecraft, NASA has taken an important step towards the goal of human exploration of the solar system.  Support from private-sector aerospace partners for the Orion effort – as well as for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to develop safe, reliable, and cost-effective access to and from space – reflects the Administration’s commitment to create jobs, bolster the American economy, and build the strongest commercial space industry in the world.  President Obama’s vision is to develop a balanced space program that supports a sustainable human exploration program, expands scientific knowledge, and invests in transformational technologies that will greatly increase our capabilities in space.  We congratulate the men and women of NASA and their commercial partners for this successful test launch, and we look forward to future milestones on the journey to Mars."


  • Celebrating National Entrepreneurship Month

    In this year’s Presidential Proclamation of November as National Entrepreneurship Month, President Obama called on all Americans to “continue our work to ensure America remains home to the best minds and the most innovative businesses on earth.

    Here are some highlights of how we celebrated entrepreneurship over the past month here at the White House:

    The President congratulated three student winners of the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge in the Oval Office. The students – including 13-year-old grand prize winner Lily DeBell – were chosen from a field of over 20,000 contestants. In addition, the President announced new efforts to significantly enhance immigration options for foreign entrepreneurs who seek to start and grow companies here in the United States as part of his executive actions to fix our broken immigration system.

    The First Lady appeared on a special episode of ABC’s Emmy Award-winning show “Shark Tank,” featuring veteran entrepreneurs who continue to serve our country by creating jobs and fueling economic growth. The Administration continues to promote the success of veteran entrepreneurs through enhanced training and access to capital.

    Vice President Biden delivered the keynote address at the fifth annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Marrakech, Morocco, in which he announced a new commitment by the United States to spark $1 billion in new private investments over the next three years for entrepreneurs, including social entrepreneurs, worldwide. At the summit, Dr. Jill Biden spoke at a signature event for women entrepreneurs, while Secretary Penny Pritzker (Department of Commerce) and Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet (U.S. Small Business Administration) emphasized America’s leadership as the epicenter of invention and innovation – and as a model for other countries.

    We highlighted the recent accomplishments of University Innovation Fellows, a growing cohort of student leaders who are on a mission to generate more entrepreneurial activity and collaboration on campuses across the country. We also hosted the 50 winners of the Small Business Administration’s first-ever Growth Accelerator Competition, representing some of the most promising startup accelerators throughout the country. As Administrator Contreras-Sweet explained, “Incubators, or accelerators, create a multi-faceted support structure to help startups quickly launch and commercialize their ideas.” The Growth Accelerator Competition was a great opportunity to showcase how more and more Federal agencies are experimenting with the startup accelerator model to advance national priorities. For example:

    • SunShot. The SunShot Incubator Program, run by the Department of Energy (DOE), supports early-stage companies that are helping make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources before the end of the decade. SunShot Catalyst is an open innovation challenge that rapidly brings teams from ideation to initial funding. Together, these programs have leveraged $104 million in government funds to attract more than $1.8 billion in private-sector investment for participating companies.
    • Health Startup Challenges. The Breast Cancer Startup Challenge, launched by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), invited multidisciplinary teams to develop business plans and start new companies based on unlicensed but promising breast cancer inventions. More recently, NIH launched a Neuro Startup Challenge around brain-related inventions, based on this same startup-driven model for bringing Federally funded research from the lab to the commercial marketplace. Meanwhile, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has launched the Market R&D Pilot Challenge, which aims to bridge technological gaps in health IT by bringing together large healthcare organizations and innovative young companies.
    • Furnace. The Department of Defense recently launched the Furnace Technology Transfer Accelerator, an intensive nine-month program designed to incubate new companies that license technologies developed at the Air Force Research Lab in Rome, New York. Furnace provides mentorship, office space and seed funding.
    • Innovation Corps. The Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program, first developed by the National Science Foundation (NSF), provides entrepreneurship training for Federally funded scientists and engineers, pairing them with business mentors for an intensive curriculum focused on discovering a demand-driven path from their lab work to a marketable product. New pilots have recently been launched by the NIH for biomedical technologies that can detect, diagnose and prevent disease, and by DOE for clean energy innovations developed at the national laboratories.  
    • Global Innovation. The Department of State’s Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) initiative empowers young science and technology entrepreneurs in 86 countries to turn their ideas into new ventures that transform their communities. Since its launch in 2011, GIST has engaged with more than 2.8 million innovators and entrepreneurs around the world, providing training to over 4,500 startups that have generated more than $80 million in revenue. At the Global Entrepreneurship Summit this past month, GIST launched a new public-private partnership to deliver on-demand programming, one-on-one mentorship, and access to financing through a comprehensive online platform.

    Looking ahead, in the President’s words, we will “reaffirm our commitment to support these entrepreneurs as they develop the products, services, and ideas of tomorrow.” Check out the White House Startup America initiative for updates on how the Administration is working to accelerate entrepreneurship across the country.

    Doug Rand is Assistant Director for Entrepreneurship at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

  • A Strategy to Accelerate Cutting-Edge Materials Innovation

    In 2011, President Obama launched a Materials Genome Initiative (MGI), a broad, cross-sector effort to work toward doubling the pace of advanced materials discovery, innovation, manufacture, and commercialization in the United States.

    Three years later, the MGI has grown into a robust, wide-reaching endeavor that spans six Federal agencies, with over $400 million committed to-date for ground-breaking research investments with partners across industry and academia.   The foundation of the MGI vision and early investments have already led to the public release of materials data, creation of new research institutes focused on research and development aligned with MGI, and the development of educational opportunities to train students in materials innovation through new courses and degree programs.

    Today, in an important milestone for the initiative, the interagency National Science and Technology Council released the Materials Genome Initiative Strategic Plan – a roadmap developed with input from a diverse array of stakeholders across the materials science and engineering community, which outlines how Federal agencies will execute on the MGI’s vision of decreasing the time and cost of bringing new materials from discovery to market.

    The Plan identifies four key areas of opportunity:

    • Leading a culture shift in materials research to encourage and facilitate an integrated team approach;
    • Integrating experiment, computation, and theory and equip the materials community with advanced tools and techniques;
    • Making digital data accessible; and
    • Creating a world-class materials science and engineering workforce that is trained for twenty-first century careers.

    In addition, the plan includes twenty-two milestones marking concrete actions that the Federal agencies will take to help get the job done—including striving to increase the number of researchers who participate in MGI-related projects by 50 percent by 2017. 

    The launch of this new strategic plan is an opportunity for the materials-science community to engage, build new collaborations, and coalesce around the principles of MGI in concrete ways that make a difference. 

    Read the new Strategic Plan here.

    Meredith Drosback is an AAAS Fellow at OSTP and Cyrus Wadia is Assistant Director for Clean Energy and Materials R&D at OSTP.

  • Announcing the Winners of the First-Ever White House 3D Printed Ornament Challenge

    • "Winter Snowflakes"

      Created by Gil Rivera of Montclair, NJ, this ornament is currently hanging in the East Room

      1 of 5
    • "Library of Congress"

      Created by Vicky Somma, Occoquan, VA, this ornament is currently hanging in the Library

      2 of 5
    • "Star of Bliss"

      Created by Roy Eid, Houston, TX, this ornament is currently hanging in the Grand Foyer

      3 of 5
    • "Presidents of Christmas Past and Present"

      Created by Antar Gamble Hall, New York, NY, this ornament is currently hanging in the State Dining Room

      4 of 5
    • "Winter Wonderland of Innovation"

      Created by David Moore and Brandy Badami, Livonia, MI, this ornament is currently hanging in the Red Room

      5 of 5


    The halls of the White House are decked out with festive holiday décor and the White House Christmas tree stands tall in the Blue Room.


    This year, innovative technologies like 3D printing are playing a role in creating a unique and interactive holiday experience at the White House.

    In October, the White House announced the 3D Printed Ornament Challenge in partnership with the Smithsonian. Makers, innovators and students around the country, from New Hampshire and Texas to California and Michigan, submitted more than 300 creative, whimsical and beautiful winter-inspired designs. Twenty innovative designs were chosen as finalists and five of these designs were selected for display in the White House. 

  • Designing a Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing Toolkit for the Federal Government

    In the 2013 Second Open Government National Action Plan, President Obama called on Federal agencies to harness the ingenuity of the public by accelerating and scaling the use of open innovation methods, such as citizen science and crowdsourcing, to help address a wide range of scientific and societal problems.

    Citizen science is a form of open collaboration in which members of the public participate in the scientific process, including identifying research questions, collecting and analyzing data, interpreting results, and solving problems. Crowdsourcing is a process in which individuals or organizations submit an open call for voluntary contributions from a large group of unknown individuals (“the crowd”) or, in some cases, a bounded group of trusted individuals or experts.

    Citizen science and crowdsourcing are powerful tools that can help Federal agencies:

    • Advance and accelerate scientific research through group discovery and co-creation of knowledge. For instance, engaging the public in data collection can provide information at resolutions that would be difficult for Federal agencies to obtain due to time, geographic, or resource constraints.
    • Increase science literacy and provide students with skills needed to excel in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Volunteers in citizen science or crowdsourcing projects gain hands-on experience doing real science, and take that learning outside of the classroom setting.
    • Improve delivery of government services with significantly lower resource investments.
    • Connect citizens to the missions of Federal agencies by promoting a spirit of open government and volunteerism.

    To enable effective and appropriate use of these new approaches, the Open Government National Action Plan specifically commits the Federal government to “convene an interagency group to develop an Open Innovation Toolkit for Federal agencies that will include best practices, training, policies, and guidance on authorities related to open innovation, including approaches such as incentive prizes, crowdsourcing, and citizen science.”

    On November 21, 2014, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) kicked off development of the Toolkit with a human-centered design workshop. Human-centered design is a multi-stage process that requires product designers to engage with different stakeholders in creating, iteratively testing, and refining their product designs. The workshop was planned and executed in partnership with the Office of Personnel Management’s human-centered design practice known as “The Lab” and the Federal Community of Practice on Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science (FCPCCS), a growing network of more than 100 employees from more than 20 Federal agencies.

  • New Video Provides a Behind-the-Scenes Look at the First 3D-Printed Presidential Portraits

    Something big happened earlier this year at the White House Maker Faire

    The very first 3D-printed bust of a sitting U.S. president made its debut.

    The bust of President Obama was created by a Smithsonian-led team of 3D-digital-imaging specialists, Autodesk and 3D Systems, in collaboration with the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies. It took two different technologically sophisticated 3D documentation processes to generate the data needed to create this portrait.