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Public Comments Requested On Proposed Changes To Advanced Technology Program

The Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology today published for comment a set of proposed changes to the agency's Advanced Technology Program rule. Public comments are invited for 30 days on the proposed modifications to the ATP's rules and procedures that appear in the Sept. 17 issue of the Federal Register.

The Advanced Technology Program provides funding on a cost-shared basis to industry to carry out research and development on high-risk, high-payoff technologies. The program concentrates on those technologies that offer significant, broad-based benefits to the nation's economy but are not likely to be developed in a timely fashion without the ATP's support because of the technical risks involved. The subjects of the ATP research projects are proposed by industry. Awards are made by NIST on the basis of announced competitions that consider the technical and business merits of the proposed projects.

The proposed changes are the result of a study of the ATP initiated by Commerce Secretary William M. Daley in March. Conducted by the department's Technology Administration and completed in July, the study solicited comments from the public and experts on research and technology concerning strategies to strengthen the program and increase its effectiveness.

Key provisions in the proposed modifications to the ATP include:

  • a formal definition of the term "large business," based on total corporate revenues, for the purpose of ATP competitions. Current ATP policies define only the notion of a "small business" (based on the definition used by the Small Business Administration), raising the possible interpretation that program rules intended to apply only to truly "big" business would unfairly disadvantage thousands of medium-sized firms with limited resources.
  • a new requirement that large companies, when applying to the ATP as individual firms (outside of a joint venture), must provide cost-sharing funds at a minimum of 60 percent of total project costs. At present, all companies are treated alike regardless of size, and companies applying as individual firms are not required to provide any specific amount as their part of the cost-share. (They are required to pay all indirect project costs on their own, however.) The new rule is intended to encourage large companies to participate in joint ventures with other firms and to ensure that they pay a majority of total project costs.
  • several modifications to the ATP's project selection criteria (used in the evaluation of candidate projects) that place greater emphasis on joint ventures and consortia with a broad range of participants and that are intended to encourage the teaming of large companies with smaller companies, universities and national labs.

The proposed changes also include a rule on how the ATP will treat the transfer of goods--such as software or research equipment--between independent members of a joint venture for purposes of computing the contribution of these resources to the cost-share. Some administrative and clerical changes also are proposed to provide greater clarity and consistency.

The Federal Register notice detailing the proposed modifications may be read on the ATP World Wide Web page Individual copies may be obtained from the ATP by calling 1-800-ATP FUND (1-800-287-3863). Comments on the proposed changes must be received by NIST by Oct. 17, 1997.

As a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce's Technology Administration, NIST promotes economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards.

Released September 18, 1997, Updated November 27, 2017