WASHINGTON — In his State of the Union address, President Obama spoke at length about the need for reinvigorating American innovation. “This is our generation’s Sputnik moment,” he said, promising new investments in biomedical research, information technology and clean energy.

But over the past decade, innovation in America stalled in almost every sector except information technology and agriculture, say scholars who study innovation. Federal figures and industry surveys support their assessment.

Google and the iPhone are American inventions. But the first mass-produced gas-electric hybrid car was made in Japan. And, in a deflating counterpoint to Obama’s soaring rhetoric, America’s third-largest maker of solar panels, Evergreen Solar, announced this week plans to cut 800 jobs, shutter its Massachusetts plant and move to China.

As for the world’s largest solar energy generator, you won’t find it in the American Southwest. It’s planned for Morocco.

“The way to make quantum leaps is to do some risky stuff,” said Alan Leshner, chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “And that’s very hard when money is tight.”

Innovation scholars point to a “valley of death” where new technologies go to die. The federal government funds basic research. Private industry commercializes technologies springing from that work. But crossing the chasm between the two can be hugely difficult.

“We have investors with lots of money, and we have entrepreneurs with ideas that can get you across the valley of death,” said Michael Mandel, an economist who tracks American innovation for the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington. “But it’s a lot easier when you have a big winner out there, a gleaming star in the distance.”

Outside the information technology sector, the United States has seen few of those huge successes of late. From 2006 to 2008, just 9 percent of American businesses innovated in either products made or in the processes needed to make them, according to a National Science Foundation report. Predictably, the software industry led the way, with 77 percent of those firms innovating.

And since 2004, federal research and development spending increased less than 1 percent above inflation, said Patrick Clemins, who watches the federal budget for AAAS.

In the biomedical research arena, the National Institutes of Health doubled its budget from 1998 to 2004, and drug companies followed suit, pouring huge sums into drug development programs designed to exploit the wash of data from the human genome project. Yet turning DNA into drugs has proved a larger challenge than anticipated, and the number of new drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration has stagnated in recent years. “Most of what you see are ‘me too’ drugs,” said Leshner, also the former head of two institutes at NIH. “What we need are new drugs.”

On Wednesday, Obama announced that his next budget will seek an extra $8 billion for clean-energy research. That’s “catch-up” money, Mandel said. “The U.S. hasn’t put very much money, in relative terms, into clean energy research and development over the past 20 years,” he said. “On energy, we’re always going to be running behind. We’re squeezed between Japan and Germany, which have invested heavily, and China, where costs are lower.”

Although the U.S. might be behind on clean energy, the country’s agriculture productivity has raced ahead of the rest of the world. Experts attribute much of the progress to biotechnology: Some 92 percent of soybeans, 86 percent of cotton and 80 percent of corn crops in America are genetically engineered to withstand weeds and insects, according to USDA.

The innovation problem doesn’t spring from a lack of good ideas, said Charles Weiss, a Georgetown University professor who studies innovation. “Go to American universities and you’ll see people are brimming with great ideas,” he said. The problem: Grand new ideas where we need them most – in energy, transportation, and health care – bang up against the old ways of doing things.

Take the City Car project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It’s a two-seat electric microcompact that aims to revolutionize city transport by replacing personal cars with smart shared vehicles that can find the nearest parking spot. A model vehicle is being built by a consortium of companies in Spain. But for the City Car to transform cities the way Google has transformed information, its supporters first have to defeat – or enlist as allies – the American automobile and fossil fuel industries.

As for fossil fuels, there is one American energy technology that has enjoyed remarkable progress: “ultra deep” drilling for oil and gas.

Ten years ago, the prospect of drilling in water greater than 5,000 feet deep was daunting and both technologically and financially prohibitive. Today, 107 of the 498 wells in deep water (1,000 feet to 5,000 feet) were drilled in ultradeep water up to 8,000 feet down, according to the Energy Department.

The technology was developed by the oil and gas industries, but they got help from the federal government in the form of tax subsidies and a special program to quickly develop ways to drill in the ultradeep water.

Having succeeded in rethinking how to work in very deep water, the DOE now reports that the industry will be drilling in 10,000 feet or more of water in the years ahead, through 30,000 feet of rock and into wells 5 miles away from the main rig.

The Deepwater Horizon explosion and massive oil spill will not stop that move into deeper water, officials said, but will require a different kind of innovation to make the process safer and more environmentally sound.

Another area where U.S. innovation has long flowered is space exploration and space science. Although American dominance in space travel will temporarily end with the grounding of the last space shuttle this year or next, a new generation of wealthy entrepreneurs is providing a level of space innovation unmatched in the world.

“We have private entrepreneurs now attempting and succeeding at space ventures that most nations can only dream about,” said John Gedmark, executive director of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, which represents companies active in what is now called the “space industry.”

The trade group was founded in 2005 with 12 members; now it has 40. They include numerous businesses founded by men who made their fortunes on Internet start-ups or other businesses that had nothing to do with space – including Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Paypal founder Elon Musk and Virgin Atlantic’s Richard Branson.