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Obama Touts Innovation to Address Today's Challenges

President Barack Obama sits in a flight simulator during a tour of innovation projects at the White House Frontiers Conference at University of Pittsburgh, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Oct. 13, 2016.

"Investing in science and technology spurs our country towards new jobs and new industries," U.S. President Barack Obama said Saturday in his weekly address.

In one of the many scientific programs that have been established since Obama took office, more than 80 federal agencies have engaged 250,000 Americans through more than 700 challenges on to address problems ranging from fighting Ebola, to decreasing the cost of solar energy, to blocking illegal robocalls. The competitions made more than $220 million available to entrepreneurs and innovators and have led to the formation of more than 275 startup companies with over $70 million in follow-up funding, creating several hundred new jobs.

The Obama administration has invested over $1 billion in scientific programs he says are essential to improving and defending American lives.

Innovation is in American DNA, Obama said. "And today, we need it more than ever to solve the challenges we face."

The president chided those who ignore scientific facts. "It's so backward when some folks choose to stick their heads in the sand about basic scientific facts," he said. "It's not just that they're saying that climate-change is a hoax or trotting out a snowball on the Senate floor. It's that they're also doing everything they can to gut funding for research and development, the kinds of investments that brought us breakthroughs like GPS and MRIs and put Siri on our smartphones."

Obama was making a reference to Senator Jim Inhofe, a Republican from the southwestern state of Oklahoma, also the chairman of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee, who famously brought a snowball into the Senate chamber in February in an effort to prove climate change is a hoax.

"That's not who we are," the president said. "Only through science can we cure diseases and save the only planet we've got and ensure that America keeps its competitive advantages as the world's most innovative economy."