That seems to be what President Obama was implying in his recent SOTU address (for more on the Brain Activity Map Project, see this NYT article). In discussing the effects of one the last huge government-funded research projects, the Human Genome Project, Obama said, “Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy — every dollar.” He also said that “Today our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s. They’re developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs, devising new materials to make batteries 10 times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race. We need to make those investments. ”
The government spent 3.8 billion dollars on the Human Genome Project, and studies calculate that the “Genomics-enabled industry generated more than $3.7 billion in federal taxes and $2.3 billion in U.S. state and local taxes in 2010.”
Here is a write-up from the National Genome Research Institute on the economic impact of the human genome project.