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Working with the Material Measurement Laboratory

Collaborations and partnerships to advance measurements and standards that underpin the chemical, biological and material sciences  


The Material Measurement Laboratory (MML) forms partnerships with external parties when the work will advance measurement science and technology of importance to MML stakeholders in industry, other agencies and the public sector.  

We have diverse mechanisms for cooperative relationships. These include formal and informal means, some of which can accommodate legal issues such as intellectual property (IP) generation and protection. Some of these mechanisms are discussed below.  

The MML strives to establish relationships that result in advances with broad scientific impact in chemical, biological and materials measurements, and maintain NIST's longstanding role and reputation as a neutral partner. In this sense, the MML seeks to frame research cooperation in ways that respect intellectual property issues and foster the transfer of NIST research products to stakeholders.

MML Priorities for Establishing Partnerships

For both formal and informal relationships, the MML establishes partnerships that advance our research priorities, including:

  • Relevance to the MML mission
  • Alignment with NIST and MML priority areas
  • Synergy with current or emerging MML programs
  • Potential impact on national needs and critical measurement science

To learn more about the MML's priorities and technical programs, browse this website. In particular, these descriptions of selected programs and initiatives may be helpful.  

The MML contributes strongly to the NIST Investment Priority Areas of energy, environment, health care, manufacturing and physical infrastructure. Visit the NIST Strategic Planning page to learn more about NIST priorities.  

Scientific Collaboration

The MML encourages informal collaborations with other scientific institutions, carried out between individual scientists or small teams, that support NIST priorities and advance common research objectives. These collaborative efforts focus on precompetitive scientific challenges with fully publishable results. When appropriate, short-term personnel exchanges can be used to accomplish collaborative goals. Expected outputs and technology transfer routes include coauthored scientific publications and presentations. To learn more about specific research programs in the MML, visit our project portfolio.  

NIST-led Consortia

Certain measurement challenges can affect a number of stakeholder institutions or cross-cut several technology sectors. In such cases, NIST can establish a consortium in which multiple partners join to solve problems of mutual interest. Historically, NIST has employed a variety of models to lead, organize and serve consortia. If necessary, consortium-related intellectual property can be protected through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA).

Proactive participation by consortia partners is essential to the success of the enterprise. If you are interested in proposing a topic for a consortium, you may suggest it using the contact information on this page; in doing so it is helpful if you can provide a list of parties who may be interested in participating.  

Grants and Cooperative Agreements

Each year, MML funds a small number of external grants and cooperative agreements, which are competitively awarded to universities and other institutions to conduct mission-relevant research and services. Funded institutions often arrange personnel exchanges to accomplish research goals.  

Cooperative Research and Development Agreements

A CRADA is a formal legal agreement to cooperate on research with predefined objectives. Within the NIST CRADA program, researchers from MML and an external institution work together to overcome specific measurement obstacles to the development and use of chemistries, biotechnology and materials. The CRADA mechanism can protect the intellectual property rights of both NIST and its partner(s). To learn more about CRADAs with NIST, visit the NIST Technology Partnerships Office. To examine MML research directions around which a CRADA could be established, browse our programs and projects.  

Small Business Innovation Research Program

The MML actively participates in a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program administrated by NIST, which solicits research and development proposals from small businesses to respond to specific technical needs of NIST research efforts, and/or to foster the commercialization of NIST-developed technologies. The NIST SBIR Program funds successful small business research and development proposals through contracts (not grants) awarded in accordance with Federal Acquisition Regulation rules, and under the supervision of a NIST technical representative who monitors the progress of the research and development. For more information about the NIST SBIR program and to view opportunities related to MML research programs, see the current proposal solicitation on the NIST SBIR website.  

Designated User Facilities

Selected NIST laboratory facilities are available for use by U.S. organizations for both proprietary and non-proprietary research. Key examples include the NIST Center for Neutron Research, which has user facilities for neutron-based measurements, and the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology, which has user facilities for nanofabrication and nanoscale characterization equipment. Both of these facilities accept user proposals on a rolling basis. In partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy, MML has established three NIST beamlines at the National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven National Laboratory that are part of the user facility on this site. The NIST beamlines offer a suite of synchrotron-based x-ray spectroscopy measurement capabilities, including near-edge x-ray absorption, fine structure spectroscopy and x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. For more information on this facility, mmlinfo [at] (contact the MML).  

Guest Scientists in MML

To support partnerships with other institutions, MML hosts technically qualified scientists and engineers from industry, universities and other government institutions worldwide to work in collaboration with MML scientists. The duration of their stay at NIST can vary from several months to years. Opportunities vary from year to year, but appointments and visits are established to advance specific MML research  and measurement service delivery objectives. The best way to learn about current opportunities is to browse our programs and contact appropriate project and program leaders. To learn more about NIST Guest Scientist programs, see the websites of the NIST International and Academic Affairs Office and NIST Technology Partnerships Office.   

In addition, NIST works with students and teachers, and offers a variety of post-doctoral research associate positions.

Created September 13, 2010, Updated December 15, 2022