President Biden recently signed the $280 billion CHIPS and Science Act into law. It was the culmination of more than a year of bipartisan, bicameral negotiations to craft comprehensive innovation and competition legislation. As we previously reported, the new law includes a historic investment in domestic semiconductor manufacturing and the nation’s pursuit of science and technology leadership. But there’s another aspect of the bill that hasn’t garnered much media attention: it is permeated with provisions to expand opportunities to Americans who have been underrepresented in science and technology.

The CHIPS and Science Act is the most comprehensive effort in history to create opportunities in science and technology for women, people of color, and other underrepresented groups. The new law will advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in science and technology by:

  • Creating new research, invention, and entrepreneurial opportunities;
  • Authorizing $13 billion for STEM and invention education and providing teachers with the necessary resources to expand STEM;
  • Expanding access to the skills and training needed to join the scientific workforce;
  • Ensuring that people of color and other underrepresented groups have information about these opportunities;
  • Funding research on diversity and inclusion in the tech sector and sexual harassment in STEM fields;
  • Making federal agency policy and personnel changes related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, including developing caregiver policies for all science agencies and creating a position for a Chief Diversity Officer at the National Science Foundation (NSF)—the nation’s chief science agency; and
  • Recognizing the importance of diversity and inclusion in national science and technology strategies.

Together, these provisions constitute a new, holistic approach to inclusive innovation. The CHIPS and Science Act directly addresses the barriers commonly faced by people underrepresented in science and technology by expanding access to education and moving beyond the “pipeline problem” by addressing other systemic barriers, such as access to capital, caregiver responsibilities, harassment, and discrimination.

The inclusion of the equity and opportunity provisions in the CHIPS and Science Act also signifies an important shift in thinking—an acknowledgement that America can only maintain global technology leadership if we harness the full extent of American talent and ingenuity.  From the beginning, this legislation has been intended to ensure America can compete—and win—on the global stage.  Policymakers have demonstrated that they understand that ensuring diversity, equity, and inclusion in science and technology is a key part of building that future.

Nowhere is this more clear than in the national strategy provisions of the law.  The CHIPS and Science Act requires the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to review our national security strategy, develop a national competitiveness strategy, and submit a report to Congress on its findings, including “an assessment of how the Federal Government is increasing the participation of underrepresented populations in science, research, innovation, and manufacturing” (emphasis added).

The CHIPS and Science Act represents widespread acceptance of the role of diversity, equity, and inclusion in America’s global competitiveness. This new law builds on other recent bipartisan efforts to expand participation in American innovation, including narrower bills like the Unleashing American Innovators Act (S. 2773/H.R. 8697)—a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would provide meaningful support to diverse inventors by strengthening the Patent Pro Bono Program and increasing USPTO outreach to diverse inventors—and the Inventor Diversity for Economic Advancement (IDEA) Act (S. 632/H.R. 1723)—a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would direct USPTO to collect inventors’ demographic data on a voluntary basis and make this information available in the aggregate for research. It also builds on efforts by the last two Administrations, including the USPTO’s Council for Inclusive Innovation (CI2), which is charged with developing a comprehensive national strategy to increase participation in our innovation ecosystem by encouraging, empowering, and supporting all future innovators.

We anticipate that efforts to support and empower the next generation of inventors, entrepreneurs, and scientists will continue as policymakers seek additional opportunities to lock in our nation’s status as a global technology superpower.

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Photo of Holly Fechner Holly Fechner

Holly Fechner advises clients on complex public policy matters that combine legal and political opportunities and risks. She leads teams that represent companies, entities, and organizations in significant policy and regulatory matters before Congress and the Executive Branch.

She is a co-chair of…

Holly Fechner advises clients on complex public policy matters that combine legal and political opportunities and risks. She leads teams that represent companies, entities, and organizations in significant policy and regulatory matters before Congress and the Executive Branch.

She is a co-chair of the Covington’s Technology Industry Group and a member of the Covington Political Action Committee board of directors.

Holly works with clients to:

  • Develop compelling public policy strategies
  • Research law and draft legislation and policy
  • Draft testimony, comments, fact sheets, letters and other documents
  • Advocate before Congress and the Executive Branch
  • Form and manage coalitions
  • Develop communications strategies

She is the Executive Director of Invent Together and a visiting lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She serves on the board of directors of the American Constitution Society.

Holly served as Policy Director for Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and Chief Labor and Pensions Counsel for the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee.

She received The American Lawyer, “Dealmaker of the Year” award. in 2019. The Hill named her a “Top Lobbyist” from 2013 to the present, and she has been ranked by Chambers USA – America’s Leading Business Lawyers from 2012 to the present.