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National labs could get boost from bill

Sen. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., shown here during an event in New Mexico last week. Lujan said New Mexico’s national labs stand to gain from provisions within the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which is being considered by the Senate. (Photo courtesy Lujan’s office)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Sen. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., said Wednesday in New Mexico that the cutting-edge research being done at the state’s two national labs could get a shot in the arm from provisions within a massive technology investment bill making its way through Congress.

The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act will soon be considered by the Senate. The package was cobbled together by multiple senate committees and would authorize $200 billion in spending, including $52 billion in funding for manufacturing semiconductors, which are used in electronic devices, and other types of research and development programs in the United States.

American production of such microelectronics has fallen significantly in the last 30 years, while countries like China have ramped up production and are dominating the industry, according to a Senate summary of the package.

Luján, who toured Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories last week, said that he worked to include two amendments in the more than 1,400-page bill that would benefit New Mexico.

One was a $17 billion investment into Department of Energy facilities and national labs. The other would create the Foundation for Energy Security and Innovation, an organization that would “advance collaboration with energy researchers, institutions of higher education, industry and nonprofit and philanthropic organizations to accelerate the commercializations of energy technology.”

Luján said some of the research that will be funded if the package becomes law could take place in New Mexico.

“These research projects can happen at Los Alamos, at Sandia,” Luján said. “It will mean billions of new investment in New Mexico.”

Luján was briefed at LANL about climate change research and how the lab is working to improve carbon capture technology. At Sandia, he learned about the lab’s Quantum Scientific Computing Open User Testbed program, or QSCOUT, which is a site where researchers can study quantum computing.

“History has shown that investing in U.S. innovation means economic growth and strategic advantages in security,” LANL Director Thom Mason said in a statement.

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