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Commerce Secretary Announces Changes to Strengthen Advanced Technology Program

U.S. Secretary of Commerce William M. Daley today announced a series of policy changes and initiatives to further strengthen the department's Advanced Technology Program, which already has produced some early gains for U.S. business. They include: an increase of the emphasis on support for joint research projects involving a mix of companies, universities and other organizations; a stronger emphasis on the program's support for small and mid-sized firms; and an increase in the cost-share requirements for large company single applicants participating in the program. The changes also would bring closer ties with state-run technology programs and strengthen linkages with the venture capital community to ensure that ATP will not fund projects that could be funded privately.

"We have listened to advice and suggestions from a broad spectrum of interested parties ranging from Members of Congress to individual firms," Secretary Daley said. "The changes and initiatives we are announcing today will improve the ATP and broaden its impact on the economy while ensuring that the fundamental strengths of the ATP remain unchanged."

The changes are the result of a study of the ATP initiated by Secretary Daley in March. Conducted by the department's Technology Administration, the study solicited comments on the program from the public (through a notice in the Federal Register) and by a mailing to approximately 3,500 interested parties, including Members of Congress, state technology or economic development officials, approximately 3,000 ATP unsuccessful applicants and awardees, approximately 150 trade associations and professional societies, and selected small businesses in high-technology fields. More than 80 organizations, including associations, states, universities, companies and Members of Congress, submitted comments.

The principal changes are summarized in the Executive Summary of the Technology Administration's report to Secretary Daley. Among the key changes are commitments to:

  • modify project evaluation criteria to put more emphasis on joint ventures and consortia with a broad range of participants and less on individual applications from large companies;
  • change the cost-share ratio for large companies applying as single applicants in future competitions to a minimum of 60 percent, providing a further incentive for large companies to participate in joint ventures;
  • build strong links with the private-sector venture capital community to both ensure that ATP will not fund projects that could be funded by the private sector and to encourage commercialization of ATP-developed technologies; and
  • encourage state participation through state-sponsored business and technology support programs, both in organizing and facilitating joint research projects and in supporting post-ATP-project development and commercialization of new technologies.

In most cases, the changes can be implemented by the Technology Administration's National Institute of Standards and Technology, which manages the ATP. A few will require Congressional action to change the law that governs the ATP.

The ATP, established by Congress in 1988 and operated from fiscal year 1990 to fiscal year 1993 as an experimental effort, is designed to help industry pursue risky, enabling technologies that have the potential for a broad-based pay-off for the nation's economy. ATP projects focus on enabling technologies that will create opportunities for new, world-class products, services and industrial processes, benefiting not just the ATP participants but other companies and industries, and ultimately consumers and taxpayers. The ATP's cost-shared funding--with more than $1 billion in private-sector investment since 1991--enables industry to pursue promising technologies that otherwise would be ignored or developed too slowly to compete in rapidly changing world markets.

Measuring the impact of ATP projects is a lengthy process. ATP projects (cost-sharing the pre-product development of a technology) typically run from two to five years, the commercialization phase (supported solely by the private sector) could add several more years, and the full economic impact may not be realized for some years after commercial introduction.

However, using a variety of analysis tools, including third-party surveys and statistical analyses, the ATP has documented several important near-term results of the program, including:

  • The majority of companies receiving ATP awards would not have been able to pursue the technology at all without the ATP, and the balance would have been able to proceed only at a significantly smaller scale. The bottom line: U.S. industry today has important new technical capabilities that would not exist without the ATP.
  • R&D on the high-risk, high-payoff technologies fostered by the ATP has been significantly accelerated, according to award winners, a large majority estimating that the award has put them ahead by two years or more. In today's marketplace, where product cycles are shorter, a lead time of only a few months can mean the difference between success and failure in time-critical markets.
  • U.S. firms have found new commercial opportunities--and some early growth--based on these new technical capabilities.
  • A new element in the R&D culture of U.S. business is emerging one that emphasizes more high-risk, high-payoff, enabling R&D and greater use of cooperative research ventures and industrial alliances, and that views government and industry as partners rather than opponents.
Released July 10, 1997, Updated November 27, 2017