Charles R. Goulding contemplates the place of 3D printing and other specific Industry 4.0 technologies as they relate to government-driven tech priorities.
In October 2020 the White House announced the 20 top technologies that it wants Federal agencies to emphasize. Although the criteria for identifying the technologies weren’t clear, it was surprising to me that 3D printing wasn’t specifically enumerated on the list. In fact, none of the industry 4.0 technologies such as robotics, automation, advanced machine tools, and IoT were individually broken out on the list. Perhaps these technology areas are encompassed by the advanced manufacturing category.
The full list of the 20 technologies is as follows:
- Advanced computing
- Advanced conventional weapons technologies
- Advanced engineering materials
- Advanced manufacturing
- Advanced sensing
- Aero-engine technologies
- Agricultural technologies
- Artificial intelligence
- Autonomous systems
- Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear mitigation technologies
- Communication and networking technologies
- Data science and storage
- Distributed ledger technologies
- Energy technologies
- Human-machine interfaces
- Medical and public health technologies
- Quantum information science
- Semiconductors and microelectronics
- Space technologies
Part of the disconnect for me is that many Federal departments such as our national laboratories and our military are already putting an increased emphasis on 3D printing. One explanation may be that the National Security Council is overly influenced by a basic research approach as opposed to already developing commercial applications. Some of the technologies on the list including energy, semiconductors and space are areas where we have already written Fabbaloo articles about the increased applicability of 3D printing. For instance, we have covered the distributed ledger technology, communication, and medical sectors already.
Research and Development Tax Credits are available for the eligible U.S.-based, 3D printing design activities that companies engage in.
The Research and Development Tax Credit
Whether it’s used for creating and testing prototypes or for final production, 3D printing is a great indicator that R&D Credit eligible activities are taking place. Companies implementing this technology at any point should consider taking advantage of R&D Tax Credits.
Enacted in 1981, the now permanent Federal Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit allows a credit that typically ranges from 4%-7% of eligible spending for new and improved products and processes. Qualified research must meet the following four criteria:
- Must be technological in nature
- Must be a component of the taxpayer’s business
- Must represent R&D in the experimental sense and generally includes all such costs related to the development or improvement of a product or process
- Must eliminate uncertainty through a process of experimentation that considers one or more alternatives
Eligible costs include US employee wages, cost of supplies consumed in the R&D process, cost of pre-production testing, US contract research expenses, and certain costs associated with developing a patent.
On December 18, 2015, President Obama signed the PATH Act, making the R&D Tax Credit permanent. Beginning in 2016, the R&D credit has been used to offset Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) for companies with revenue below $50MM and, startup businesses can obtain up to $250,000 per year in payroll tax cash rebates.
Technology: Apply Strategy or Remain Laissez-Faire?
It is good to see our country get more focused on identifying strategic technology. We now must compete with nation-states that have very specific and targeted government technology strategies. Particularly at this time, our strategy as a nation should be to advance our technological arsenal (so-to-speak) to improve our society and those in other countries as well. Right now, our “laissez-faire” approach just isn’t working.