The Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology today announced a grant to the Center for Advanced Food Technology at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J., aimed at helping smaller food manufacturers become more competitive.
The processed food and beverage industry is the nation's largest manufacturing sector with sales in 1994 of an estimated $404 billion. About 95 percent of the companies in this sector have 500 employees or less. They frequently have limited technical resources to address process developments or improvements.
Federal funding for this project is $99,999, with matching funding of $100,001 from Rutgers University, the state of New Jersey and the food industry.
Through this award, the Rutgers center will help centers affiliated with NIST's Manufacturing Extension Partnership in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia provide better outreach services and resources to smaller food manufacturers and also will analyze how to reach MEP affiliates in other states across the nation. CAFT will work with the MEP centers to better understand the needs of food manufacturers and the services and service providers that are available, design a food manufacturing training program to meet these needs, and define plans to coordinate use of appropriate resources. Also, CAFT will host workshops and demonstrations of its Food Manufacturing Technology Facility. This 31,000-square-foot facility has food processing equipment as well as several model food packaging lines, a product development kitchen and a quality control laboratory.
The award is part of the State Technology Extension Program, or STEP, managed by NIST's MEP. With affiliate centers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, the MEP is a nationwide system of services and support for smaller manufacturers giving them unprecedented access to new technologies, resources and expertise. STEP-funded projects help organizations (1) plan manufacturing extension systems or technical and business assistance programs, (2) support the initial implementation of such programs or (3) develop links between existing programs and those in other regions.
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.