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The US government must pump more money into nanotechnology research to ensure future generations of Americans can drive ever bigger cars.

That was the message the Semiconductor Industry Association and assorted chip execs brought to Washington Wednesday as they argued for more Federal R&D funding to ensure the US keeps its technological edge.

Intel’s Craig Barrett and Micron’s Steve Appleton said computer advances had powered an economic boom, helped raise living standards, powered great leaps forward in areas such as biotech and medicine and created whole new industries, such as cellular phones.

At the same time though, Federal R&D spending as a proportion of GDP has fallen by half in the last 20 years, and they warned the US’ technological predominance was under assault from the rest of the world. Appleton even went so far as to admit, “US leadership is not inevitable,” said Appleton.

This is an issue of national security, the SIA and the chip execs argue. Even more importantly, there could be “serious consequences for our standard of living.”

Yes, unless Washington coughs up more cash to boost Silicon Valley’s labs, the American dream of a Hummer in every garage and a GMO chicken in every pot may never be realized.

The answer is simple, the SIA says. Simply double the National Science Foundation’s research budget over the next 10 years, appropriate $20m to match chip industry support for the Focus Center Research Program, give $20m to National Institute for Standards and Technology for nano research, and increase funding for Math and Science education.

And how to pay for this? Strangely, no-one seems to be suggesting increasing taxes on that other spur for innovation, stock options.®

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