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Advanced Technology Program Requests Comments On Proposed Changes To Rule

Modifications to the project selection criteria used by the Commerce Department’s Advanced Technology Program will simplify the criteria to more accurately reflect the purpose of the program, according to a notice published for comment today in the Federal Register.

The formal request for comment issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which manages the ATP, also includes several minor administrative and clerical changes to the ATP rule to clarify potentially ambiguous points or to eliminate unnecessary provisions. Interested parties have 30 days to comment on the proposed changes.

The ATP provides funding on a cost-shared basis with industry to carry out research and development on high-risk, high-payoff emerging and enabling technologies. The program concentrates on those technologies that offer significant, broad-based benefits to the nation’s economy, but that are not likely to be developed in a timely fashion without the ATP’s support because of the technical risks involved. More than $2.3 billion of combined federal and private sector funding has been devoted to ATP projects to date.

The most significant proposed change to the ATP rule replaces a complicated set of five project selection criteria, each with different "weights" and lists of sub-criteria, with a more straightforward two-part scheme: projects will be evaluated for their scientific and technological merit and for their potential for broad-based economic benefits, with both parts weighted equally.

The selection criteria are used by expert review panels in evaluating industry project proposals for possible ATP funding. The new selection criteria include the major elements required by the old, but organize them more flexibly, and are more logically in line with the main themes of the ATP mission: encouraging high-risk R&D on innovative technologies in order to catalyze significant economic benefits for the nation. ATP projects are expected to propose highly innovative technological advances, involve a significant technological risk, have a well-conceived R&D approach, have the potential for broad economic benefits that go well beyond the sponsoring company, lay out a clear path from the lab to the marketplace, and require ATP support to proceed because funding is not obtainable from other sources.

Other proposed changes to the ATP rule include:

  • Eliminating a provision that allows the ATP to award partial funding to an industry joint venture to assist in "overcoming organizational deficiencies"; the strength of the organizational structure is part of the "potential for economic benefit" selection criterion.
  • Expanding a section covering allowable NIST technical services to award recipients to include workshops and other activities that foster collaborations between award recipients and other sources of funding, in order to promote the further development and commercialization of ATP-developed technologies.
  • Modifying a section on the qualifications of joint-venture members to state explicitly that members may not incur any reimbursable costs until the formal joint-venture agreement is signed and approved by NIST.
  • Adding a formal definition of "company" and modifying the definition of "industry-led joint research and development venture" for clarity.
  • Changing various minor administrative and clerical procedures for consistency and clarity.

The full text of the notice in today’s Federal Register may be read on the ATP web site:

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 through four partnerships: the Measurement and Standards Laboratories, the Advanced Technology Program, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the National Quality Program.

Released September 25, 1998, Updated November 27, 2017