OSTP Initiatives

OSTP works to advance a wide range of initiatives, programs, projects, and activities that unleash the power of science, technology, and innovation for the benefit of Americans and people around the world.

Jump to:

Improving Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education

100K in 10

100Kin10 is a coalition of more than 150 organizations responding to President Obama’s 2011 call to train 100,000 new, excellent STEM teachers over the next decade. With leadership from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the coalition has raised more than $30 million from foundations and philanthropists to meet this goal, and serves as a powerful network for meeting measurable commitments toward expanding, improving, and retaining the Nation’s best STEM teachers.

Change the Equation

Change the Equation—launched by President Obama in 2010 as part of his “Educate to Innovate” campaign—is a coalition of more than 100 CEOs leveraging their investments, unique capabilities, and voices to dramatically improve STEM learning. Change the Equation is dedicated to improving PreK-12 STEM learning in three ways: improve philanthropy, inspire youth, and advocate for positive change.

Digital Promise

Digital Promise is a public-private partnership that aims to accelerate innovation in education with technology. To realize the potential of learning technology, Digital Promise is working with leading educators, researchers, technology firms, and entrepreneurs on three key challenges:  (1) identifying breakthrough learning technologies, (2) learning faster what works and what does not, and (3) transforming the market for learning technologies.

Educate to Innovate   

Educate to Innovate is a nationwide effort launched by President Obama in 2009 to help reach the Administration’s goal of moving American students from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math achievement over the next decade.  It involves a series of high-powered partnerships involving leading companies, foundations, non-profits, and science and engineering societies. The initiative also includes efforts such as game-design competitions and television programming for science literacy.

Maker Education Initiative

The mission of the Maker Education Initiative is to create more opportunities for young people to make and—by making—build confidence, foster creativity, and spark interest in science, technology, engineering, math, the arts, and learning as a whole. The Maker Education Initiative will achieve its mission by focusing on three important areas: (1) more maker spaces and infrastructure where students can come together to design and build, (2) more maker projects that bring together materials and curricula for a broad range of students of various ages, and (3) more maker mentors to share both their technical expertise and their passion with young makers.

Back to top

Broadening Participation in STEM

Equal Futures Partnership

The Equal Futures Partnership aims to open more doors to high-quality education and high-paying career opportunities for women and girls in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines—fields in which they are currently underrepresented. To support this effort, Federal science and technology agencies, private corporations, and academic institutions are taking steps to collect better data on women and girls in STEM fields, expand STEM mentoring opportunities, encourage research-driven teaching practices, and increase access to online STEM-skill training.

Tech Inclusion Initiative

In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama issued a call to better equip American graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy, noting that STEM is crucial to America’s economic future and that students with STEM skills will be a driving force making the Nation competitive, creative, and innovative. The Administration is taking steps to ensure that the Nation’s STEM graduates reflect the full diversity of America and has issued a call to tech innovators to work together to ensure that all youth—particularly those from underserved and historically underrepresented communities—have the opportunity to study STEM subjects and participate in the technology sector.

Back to top

Strengthening the American STEM Workforce

Skills for America’s Future

Skills for America’s Future (SAF) is an employer-led initiative of the Aspen Institute that works to help close the current gap between available American jobs and workers with the skills needed to fill those jobs.  SAF identifies solutions through which education providers and employers can collaborate to connect individuals with the skills that will allow American businesses to be more productive, innovative, and competitive.

Joining Forces

Under the Joining Forces initiative, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden took the lead on working with companies to fulfill President Obama’s 2011 challenge to the private sector to hire or train 100,000 veterans or their spouses by the end of 2013.  In August 2012, the First Lady announced that more than 2,000 American companies had helped exceed President Obama’s challenge by hiring over 125,000 veterans and military spouses, andhad committed to hiring or training an additional 250,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2014. More information can be found here.

IT Training and Certification Partnership

The IT Training and Certification Partnership is a public-private partnership launched by the First Lady in April 2013 to enable thousands of service members to earn industry-recognized information technology (IT) certifications before they transition from military service. The partnership builds on President Obama’s June 2012 announcement of partnerships with the manufacturing sector that enable service members to earn high-demand advanced manufacturing certifications, and the establishment of the Department of Defense’s Military Credentialing and Licensing Task Force

Combating Climate Change

Climate Action Plan

On June 25, 2013, President Obama laid out a comprehensive plan for steady action to reduce greenhouse gas pollution in America, prepare our country for the impacts of climate change, and lead global efforts to fight it. OSTP is responsible for ensuring that the best science, research, data, tools, and technologies are brought to bear to implement the President’s Climate Action Plan, including by overseeing the activities of the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP)—a coalition of 13 Federal agencies conducting rigorous science to predict future climate change, understand climate change impacts, and provide the tools needed to address them.

National Climate Assessment

The Global Change Research Act of 1990 mandates that a National Climate Assessment (NCA) be conducted every four years, resulting in a report to the President and Congress that synthesizes the best available science on the state and impacts of climate change in the United States—including on sectors such as agriculture, water, energy, transportation, and ecosystems. The next NCA report is due in 2013 and a draft version has already been produced by an independent advisory committee, with contributions from 240 expert authors from academia; local, state, and Federal governments; the private sector; and the nonprofit sector; and drawing from technical input papers submitted by more than 1,000 contributors. A final NCA report is expected to be released in early 2014.

Back to top

Promoting Open Data, Open Science, and Open Government

Open Government

The Obama Administration firmly believes that openness in government strengthens our democracy and promotes a more efficient, effective, and accountable government. OSTP is a leader in support of President Obama’s historic Open Government Directive that requires Federal agencies to take specific steps to achieve key milestones in transparency, participation, and collaboration. You can see all Open Government Directive milestones here; track progress across the executive branch on the Open Government Dashboard; and read about how the Obama Administration is changing the way Washington works in the Progress Report to the American People.

Open Data

The Obama Administration is committed to responsibly unleashing data from the vaults of government to fuel the innovation that grows the economy while also advancing government efficiency and accountability. On May 9, 2013, President Obama signed an executive order, making open and machine-readable data the new default for government information, taking historic steps to make government-held data more accessible to the public and to entrepreneurs while appropriately safeguarding sensitive information and rigorously protecting privacy. To build on this landmark effort to open up data across government, the Administration has also launched—through OSTP—several Open Data Initiatives aimed at scaling up open data efforts across the Health, Energy, Education, Finance, Public Safety, and Global Development sectors.

My Data

The My Data initiatives are part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to empower Americans with secure access to their personal data, and increase citizens’ access to private-sector applications and services that can be used to analyze their own data for a growing array of useful purposes.  For example, in 2010, the Department of Veterans Affairs created Blue Button, a simple tool that gives patients access to their own health records. Blue Button has become a powerful catalyst to motivate health providers and health plans to give patients access to their own health information. Today, more than 88 million Americans have digital access to their health records or health claims. Other efforts in the Departments of Energy, Commerce, Education and other Federal entities are helping citizens access their own information as fuel for more informed, effective decision making.  

Presidential Innovation Fellows

The Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) program pairs top innovators from the private sector, nonprofits, and academia with top innovators inside government for 6- to 13-month “tours of duty” focused on developing solutions that can save lives, save taxpayer money, and fuel job creation. The first round of five projects was launched in August 2012, with 18 inaugural Fellows. The second round of the program launched in the summer of 2013 with nine projects. PIFs have a unique opportunity to serve our Nation and make an impact on a massive scale. 

Tech for Disaster Response

OSTP is partnering with a number of organizations and Federal agencies to build innovative, technological, and crowd-sourced disaster-response tools that can dramatically improve the Nation’s ability to respond to large-scale disasters. Following Hurricane Sandy, for example, OSTP collaborated with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to develop a new documentation system to help citizens more easily find housing and receive financial housing assistance. OSTP also coordinated with companies to provide information about open gas stations, restaurants, and hotels so the supply and demand challenges after a national disaster could be addressed more efficiently than before.

Tech vs. Trafficking

The Tech vs Trafficking Initiative is a joint effort of the White House Council on Women and Girls, the Office of the Vice President, and OSTP to combatchild sex-trafficking by turning the tables on traffickers and harnessing technology to stop them. On July 25th, 2012, the Administration put out a call to action and convened a group of technology innovators from the private and public sectors to brainstorm ways to effectively leverage technology to fight against child sex trafficking in the United States. Tech innovators across the country have responded with enormous ingenuity by building and deploying a growing array of apps to help law enforcement find traffickers and bring them to justice, identify and rescue victims, and help victims connect to services and assistance.

Back to top

Advancing Basic and Applied Science

The BRAIN InitiativeSM:

The BRAIN Initiative — short for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies — is a bold research initiative designed to revolutionize our understanding of the human brain. Launched with approximately $100 million in the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 Budget, the BRAIN Initiative ultimately aims to help researchers find new ways to treat, cure, and even prevent brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury. The BRAIN Initiative will accelerate the development and application of new technologies that will enable researchers to produce dynamic pictures of the brain that show how individual brain cells and complex neural circuits interact at the speed of thought. These technologies will open new doors to explore how the brain records, processes, uses, stores, and retrieves vast quantities of information, and shed light on the complex links between brain function and behavior.

Forensic Science

A number of reports, including the 2009 National Research Council report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward, have highlighted the complex challenges facing the US forensic science community, including fragmentation and funding disparities among the field’s many sub-disciplines; lack of evidence-based standards for some forensic tests; weak ties between the academic research community and practicing forensics providers; and the lack of a unified, national agenda for improving the forensic science disciplines. OSTP is working with the Department of Justice, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Science Foundation to develop a pragmatic research agenda to strengthen the forensic sciences.

Materials Genome Initiative

The Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) is a multi-agency initiative designed to create a new era of policy, resources, and infrastructure that support U.S. institutions in the effort to discover, manufacture, and deploy advanced materials twice as fast as typically occurs today, and at a fraction of the cost.  Launched by the President in June 2011, MGI generated $63 million in FY 2012 research grants across multiple agencies and catalyzed commitments from more than 60 companies and universities to advance the MGI through their own business, research, and education practices.

National Nanotechnology Initiative

Nanotechnology is the understanding and control of matter at dimensions between approximately 1 and 100 nanometers, where unique phenomena enable novel applications. The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) is a major interagency R&D initiative in nanoscale science, engineering, and technology, sharing a vision of “a future in which the ability to understand and control matter at the nanoscale leads to a revolution in technology and industry that benefits society.” The scope of the initiative is broad, ranging from fundamental research to development and commercialization. The NNI is overseen by a subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council (co-chaired by OSTP) and is supported by a National Nanotechnology Coordination Office.

Neuroscience Initiative

The White House Neuroscience Initiative spans several cross-agency efforts coordinated and supported by OSTP. The goal of the Neuroscience Initiative is to discover significant, transformative opportunities across agencies and between the Federal Government and the private sector to advance the impact of Federal investments in neuroscience to improve health, learning, and other outcomes of national importance. In addition to the BRAIN Initiative, other Federal efforts associated with the White House Neuroscience Initiative include:

Social & Behavioral Sciences Initiative

As part of a larger Administration effort to promote evidence-based policy, the Social & Behavioral Sciences Initiative explores how academic findings from these fields can be used to design public policies that work better, cost less, and better serve citizens. The initiative promotes collaborations among Federal agencies in order to embed social and behavioral research insights into a range of policy initiatives - from health care to education - and to test outcomes using rigorous experimentation and evaluation methods.

Spurring Innovation

US Ignite Partnership   

The US Ignite Partnership is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit with a mission to catalyze 60 advanced, next-generation applications capable of operating on gigabit broadband networks over the next five years in six areas of national priority: education and workforce development, advanced manufacturing, health, transportation, public safety, and clean energy.  The Partnership connects industry leaders from small and large corporations, including startups, with local and state governments, universities, foundations, community institutions, and broadband carriers to accelerate the development and testing of new applications that promise to have a significant impact on the US economy.

Grand Challenges

Grand Challenges are ambitious but achievable goals that harness science, technology, and innovation to solve important national or global problems and have the potential to capture the public’s imagination. Grand Challenges are an element of the President’s Strategy for American Innovation because they help catalyze breakthroughs that advance national priorities. On April 2, 2013, President Obama called on companies, research universities, foundations, and philanthropists to join him in identifying and pursuing the Grand Challenges of the 21st century. If you are interested in getting involved or sharing an idea for a new Grand Challenge, please contact the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy at challenges@ostp.gov.

Incentive Prizes

The Obama Administration has taken important steps to make incentive prizes a standard tool for open innovation in every Federal agency’s toolbox for addressing our Nation’s most pressing challenges. The Administration, in partnership with private-sector and philanthropic partners, is using prize competitions to spur innovation, solve complex problems, and address national priorities.  The use of prizes in the public sector has expanded under the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010.  Since then, more than 250 prizes have been offered by over 50 departments and agencies.

Space Policy

A key tenet of the President’s Space Policy is to encourage and partner with American commercial space companies so that NASA can focus on pushing the frontier of exploration by sending humans to an asteroid and Mars. Just as the early days of government and military air travel paved the way for commercial airliners, one of the goals of the President’s Space Policy is to turn space into the next commercial frontier by using innovative contracting methods that enable collaboration between the U.S. Government and the private sector. The Administration’s priorities in space include advancing a U.S. commercial crew transportation industry, continuing to fund robust programs in Earth and space science, extending the International Space Station program until at least 2020 to foster scientific and technological advances, and more. Learn more:

Startup America

Startup America is the President’s all-hands-on-deck call to celebrate, inspire, and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship across the country. The President has led a government-wide effort to expand access to capital, cut red tape, and accelerate innovation through executive actions. He also called on Congress to do its part, resulting in bipartisan legislation such as the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act. And, recognizing that this is not a job for government alone, the President also called on the private sector to do more for entrepreneurs. Today, independent organizations such as the Startup America Partnership are stepping up to mobilize resources and grow strong startup communities across the country. 

Innovation for Global Development

In collaboration with Administration partners, OSTP implements the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development, which commits the U.S. to leverage its unparalleled capacity for science, technology, and innovation to accelerate progress in areas such as global health, food security, nutrition, clean energy, and financial inclusion. OSTP places particular emphasis on the identification and scale-up of game-changing development technologies, often through mechanisms that engage non-traditional development actors and new innovation tools such as grand challenges, incentive-based financing, open data, patent pools, and impact investing.   

National Robotics Initiative

In June, 2011, President Obama announced the NRI (National Robotics Initiative), a multi-agency initiative designed to support research and development in robotics science and technology. The NRI aims to create new opportunities in diverse areas including manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture, space exploration, national defense, homeland security, civil infrastructure, and education. In 2012, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the US Department of Agriculture issued a new NRI joint program solicitation of more than $50 million to develop the science and technology for robots that can safely co-exist and operate in close proximity to humans. Leaders from academia, industry and government have developed a roadmap for robotics research, development and education, presented to the Congressional Robotics Caucus in March 2013.

Back to top

Protecting National Security and Building International Partnerships

Protecting National Security

OSTP’s National Security and International Affairs Division spearheads a multi-agency effort to develop and implement cutting-edge scientific and technological tools to support the Administration’s national security priorities. OSTP’s national security efforts include facilitating Federal research and development to create tools to thwart cyber, biological, and nuclear threats as well as to improve trans-border security and the Nation’s intelligence capabilities.  

Working with International Partners

OSTP launched the International Affairs Initiative to lead the Administration’s engagement with potential international partners in key areas related to science and technology policy, research, and development. International science and technology partnerships are critical to addressing current and emerging global issues such as transnational terrorism, climate change, armed conflict, pandemic disease, space exploration, and cyberspace security. OSTP has achieved a number of significant international accomplishments over the past six years, including strengthening partnerships with emerging economies, addressing trade policies that hinder US companies, advocating for appropriate funding levels for international programs that carry out Presidential priorities, and addressing problematic legal issues in science and technology agreements.

Back to top

Harnessing America’s Expertise

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST)

PCAST is an advisory group of the Nation’s leading scientists and engineers who directly advise the President and the Executive Office of the President. PCAST makes policy recommendations in the many areas where understanding of science, technology, and innovation is essential to strengthening our economy and forming policy that works for the American people. PCAST holds bi-monthly meetings, which are webcast. 

The National Science and Technology Council

The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) is a Cabinet-level Council serving as the principal means within the executive branch to coordinate science and technology policy across the diverse entities that make up the Federal research and development enterprise. Chaired by the President, the membership of the NSTC is made up of the Vice President, the Director of the OSTP, Cabinet Secretaries and Agency Heads with significant science and technology responsibilities, and other White House officials—with the OSTP Director serving as the de facto chairman. Among other duties, the Council prepares research and development strategies that are coordinated across Federal agencies to form investment packages aimed at accomplishing multiple national goals. The work of the NSTC is organized under five primary committees (and a number of subcommittees, task forces, and other sub-entities): Science; Technology; Environment, Natural Resources and Sustainability; Homeland and National Security, and; Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education.

Back to top

Learn More about 21st Century Grand Challenges
Follow us on Twitter
Scientific Integrity
Learn More About Global Science Diplomacy