Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure in the U.S.

In order to meet SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure - by 2030, we must build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation. This includes ensuring universal access to affordable information and communication technology, investing more in R&D, and improving infrastructure in all sectors.
People Impacted
$ 62B
Potential Funding
I have this challenge
the problem
Nature and Context

In 2019 an estimated $656 billion worth of research and development (R&D) took place in the US. (National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics). Private businesses, the federal government, nonfederal governments, higher education institutions, and nonprofit organizations all contribute to R&D spending, many of these organizations also conduct R&D activities.

In 2019, State Governments spent $2.4 billion on R&D, 45% of which went to health-related projects.

Symptoms and Causes



R&D spending by State Governments declined from 2018 to 2019 by $1 billion but still totaled over $2 billion (NCSES).

  • 77% of funding came from state and other non-federal sources

  • 59% of funds went to Higher education institutions

  • 45% of funds went to health-related projects

  • 6 states (California, New York, Texas, Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania) account for 64% of total spending by state governments.

You can see how states compare on per capita R&D spending with this SDG 9 Interactive Report


Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) releases America's Infrastructure Scorecard. In the 2021 report, the nation receives an overall score of C-.

  • 42% of all bridges are at least 50 years old and 7.5% considered to be in “poor” condition

  • 43% of our public roadways are in poor or mediocre condition.

Information and Communication Technology

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable across the country. The FCC releases regular reports on broadband internet availability in the nation.

For 2020, they estimate that 14.5 million Americans didn't have access to broadband, down from 21.3 million in 2019. However, there are widely accepted flaws in the collection of the data used to inform these reports (Broadband Now).

Broadband Now is an independent research organization focusing on internet plans, pricing, and availability. Using data from the FCC and Internet Service Provider (ISPs), they estimate that at least 42 million Americans lack. access to broadband internet.

the impact
Economic Impact

The ASCE reports that our nation’s highways and roads move 72%, almost $17 trillion, of the nation’s goods. It's estimated that deteriorating roads cost the nation’s motorists nearly $130 billion each year on extra vehicle repairs and operating costs.

Additionally, we have a $786 billion backlog of road and bridge needs.

  • $435 billion for repairing existing roads

  • $125 billion for bridge repair

  • $120 billion for system expansion

  • $105 billion for system enhancement

Success Metrics

Measures of success based on the targets and indicators determined by UN SDG 9 (SDG Tracker) include:

  • Access to and quality of roads

  • The manufacturing sector's contribution to a country's total gross domestic product (GDP)

  • Access of small-scale industrial and other enterprises to financial services, including affordable credit, and their integration into value chains and markets.

  • Resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes

  •  Expenditure on research and development (R&D) activities

  • The share of the population with access to mobile cellphones and using the internet (on any device).

who benefits from solving this problem
Organization Types
  • Federal, state, and local Governments

  • Higher Education, Research, and Policy Institutions

  • Organizations in the Transportation, Manufacturing, Communication, Technology, Energy, and other sectors

  • Federal, state, and local Governments

  • Higher Education, Research, and Policy Institutions

  • Organizations in the Transportation, Manufacturing, Communication, Technology, Energy, and other sectors

  • Businesses and entrepreneurs

  • Taxpayers

financial insights
Potential Solution Funding

Based on data from over 600,000 tax returns filed by nonprofits in the US (data via X4Impact), on an average year, over 19,000 nonprofit organizations working on industry, innovation, and infrastructure-related issues in the US report $36B in income.

There is also at least $2 billion in open grant funding.

Ideas Description

Remove the census block reporting and replacing it with address-level granularity as the national requirement for provider self-reporting. The FCC has relied on census blocks to generalize where service is and isn’t available in the U.S. for over a decade. 

Update internet speed minimums. The current FCC broadband definition requires providers to provide at least 25 Mbps download speeds and 3 Mbps upload. BroadbandNow advocates for a new standard of at least 100 Mbps download and 50 Mbps upload (Broadband Now).

The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund is a Federal Communications Commission program designed to close the digital divide in the United States by investing billions of dollars in the construction of rural broadband networks.

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