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New Study Reports ATP Can Significantly Accelerate New Technology Development

The Commerce Department's Advanced Technology Program is having a significant impact in accelerating the pace of technology development, according to a new study of early ATP award winners. Most companies surveyed estimated that participation in the ATP reduced their technology development cycle by 50 percent, typically reducing a six-year process to three years.

Accelerated technology development translates to dollars and cents according to the majority of companies studied, with estimates of the economic impact of reducing cycle time ranging from 1 million to several billions of dollars for a single year of time saved.

The results are documented in a detailed survey of the experiences of 28 project teams funded by the ATP in 1991. The report is one of a series of studies commissioned by the ATP as part of the program's evaluation and analysis efforts.

Managed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Advanced Technology Program provides funding on a cost-shared basis to industry to carry out high-risk research and development of potentially high-payoff technologies. The program concentrates on those technologies that potentially 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. Industry designs, plans, proposes and carries out the research projects cost-shared by the ATP. Awards are made by NIST on the basis of announced competitions that consider the technical and business merits of the proposed projects.

"While it is important to remember that we are talking about a fairly small sample in this study, the results are very encouraging," according to Rosalie Ruegg, director of the ATP Economic Assessment Office. "A particularly important finding is that a strong majority of companies, 24 of the 28, reported that working with the ATP had led them to adopt new practices in other, non-ATP, projects which also resulted in reduced cycle times. This suggests that the ATP can initiate positive, systemic changes in a company's R&D culture that in the long run could have important economic benefits even beyond those achieved directly by the project."

Key results noted by the study include:

  • Twenty-seven (96 percent) of the company representatives interviewed estimated that participation in the ATP had helped their companies to reduce their technology development cycle time anywhere from 30 to 66 percent, with more than half estimating a 50 percent reduction.
  • The interviewees attributed the cycle-time reduction to several factors, including the ATP's requirements for disciplined and integrated project planning and management; achieving a critical mass of resources through ATP funding; attracting additional financial support because of being selected as an ATP project; greater project stability because of the ATP's long-term commitment to the research; and the ATP's emphasis on collaboration.
  • Twenty-four (86 percent) of the interviewees expected the time savings in R&D to be carried forward through product development, production and marketing, enabling them to move the new technology into the marketplace more quickly.
  • Over half (15) of the interviewees were able to quantify "ballpark" estimates of the economic value of reducing cycle time by just one year, and these estimates ranged from 1 million to several billions of dollars, with a median value of $5.5 million.
  • Twenty-four (86 percent) of the interviewees reported that participation in the ATP resulted in cycle-time improvements that carried over to other technology development projects outside of the ATP. They were able to adapt specific ATP practices or methodologies to the firm as a whole and capitalize on the enabling ATP technologies to accelerate the development of related projects and applications.

Details of the study, conducted by industry consultant Frances Laidlaw, are found in Acceleration of Technology Development by the Advanced Technology Program: The Experience of 28 Projects Funded in 1991 (NISTIR-6047). Copies of the report may be obtained from the ATP Economic Assessment Office, (301) 975-4332, or by email to atp [at] (atp[at]nist[dot]gov).

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 October 23, 1997, Updated November 27, 2017