The Commerce Department's Advanced Technology Program is succeeding in its near-term goal of fostering and accelerating the development of promising, but high-risk, enabling technologies by U.S. industry, according to the results of a new study released today.
The largest and most thorough study of the ATP to date summarizes the results of a survey of 125 companies and non-profit organizations participating in ATP projects awarded during the first three years of the program.
The survey was conducted by Silber and Associates, an independent research firm, under contract to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which manages the ATP. It extends the scope of an early pilot study of the first ATP projects, conducted by Solomon Associates in 1993.
Seventy percent of the companies interviewed reported that there was little or no chance that they would have pursued the technology now under development without support from the ATP. Of the balance, 90 percent said that if they had gone ahead with the research without the ATP, they would have done so with significantly lower goals and/or at a significantly slower pace. "We would have been much slower, probably three years out," commented one respondent, "which in this industry is forever."
Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown said this study showed the ATP is a valuable national resource deserving broad, bipartisan support. "When you're investing money in people and their projects, it's easy to get them to say nice things about you in the abstract, but this report cuts through that to hard facts and results," said Brown.
"Two years or more knocked off the R&D; cycle, according to seven out of 10 participants. New technologies that will enable higher quality, higher performance products, according to eight out of 10. Improved competitive position for their companies as a direct result of the ATP project according to more than half the respondents. Those are solid results that translate to jobs and economic growth for the United States, and that's what we're here for," said Brown.
In presenting the study results, NIST Director Arati Prabhakar emphasized that the new study only considered near-term, relatively immediate, impacts of the program. "The real goals of the ATP are long term catalyzing broad economic benefits for the economy. That happens when products and technologies based on ATP projects enter the marketplace and, in turn, enable others in the economy to introduce new and better products of their own to the world's markets," Prabhakar said.
"Studies like this report are one of several economic research tools we use to track the progress of the ATP. One particularly encouraging result of this study is the extent to which the companies already are commercializing results from the ATP projects," she said.
Established in 1990, the Advanced Technology Program offers cost-sharing awards to industry on a competitive basis for R&D; projects to advance high-risk enabling technologies with the potential for important, broad-based economic benefits for the nation. By reducing early R&D; risks for individual companies, the ATP enables industry to pursue promising technologies that otherwise would be ignored or developed too slowly to compete in rapidly changing world markets. The program has sponsored nearly 300 R&D; projects since its inception.
As a non-regulatory agency of the Commerce Department's Technology Administration, NIST promotes U.S. economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards.