The State of Maine and the federal government joined forces today on an innovative technology initiative to benefit the economy in Maine and the nation. Maine Governor Angus King, Jr. and Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Technology Gary Bachula signed a letter of partnership that links a variety of organizations in Maine with the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology in an expansion of current cooperative efforts.
The agreement was signed in a ceremony at the State Capitol building in Augusta attended by state legislators, business leaders, and university and NIST representatives. It is the first such partnership formed by NIST with a state, and it will serve as a pilot for possible expansion to other states if it is successful.
"We know that investments made by Maine in science and technology will improve the competitiveness of our products and services in world markets--and that will ensure benefits to the citizens of Maine as active partners in a vibrant and balanced economy," said King. "By focusing on technology and linking with NIST, Maine will improve its ability to take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead," King said.
"NIST already has a track record of successful cooperation with companies and other organizations in Maine, and we think this is an ideal opportunity to expand our partnership with a state that is committed to putting technology to better use in the New Economy," said Commerce Secretary William Daley in Washington, D.C.
"I am excited about the prospect of this new teaming arrangement which should yield positive returns not only to Maine, but to other parts of the country which will benefit from the results of this cooperation. It is a perfect fit for inclusion under the umbrella of the U.S. Innovation Partnership," Bachula said.
That broader partnership was initiated by Commerce Secretary William Daley, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the nation’s governors in 1997. It is designed to foster the development of a national innovation system that explicitly recognizes the roles and resources of the states and the federal government.
With the mission of promoting economic growth by partnering with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements, and standards, NIST has nearly a century of experience working with U.S. companies and other organizations. NIST is a non-regulatory agency of the Commerce Department’s Technology Administration, which is headed by Bachula.
Existing relationships between Maine and NIST include:
- The Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership, established in 1995, is a strong component of NIST’s nationwide Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
- The Maine MEP serves Maine’s smaller manufacturers around the state. NIST co-funds the Maine MEP, which has been a national leader in providing Y2K computer "bug"-related assistance.
- Maine’s Division of Quality Assurance and Regulations works with NIST’s Office of Weights and Measures to protect consumers and to ensure equity in the marketplace.
- The Margaret Chase Smith Quality Association, which promotes economic development in Maine by helping organizations to achieve business and quality excellence, bases its criteria for making awards on criteria developed by the NIST Baldrige National Quality Program.
- NIST’s Building and Fire Research Laboratory works with Maine officials on building and fire codes to ensure public safety.
- Maine’s state and local law enforcement agencies and laboratories use standards and research data developed by NIST’s Office of Law Enforcement Standards in areas ranging from body armor and concealed weapons detection to forensic use of DNA.
- NIST’s laboratories provide critical elements of the measurement and standards infrastructure relied upon by companies and other organizations in Maine for conducting business and ensuring that consumers receive quality goods and services.
Teams from Maine and NIST have identified several promising areas for expanding current relationships through a combination of formal and informal arrangements. Specific areas that will be explored under this new partnership include:
- NIST and the Technology Administration will offer technical assistance to Maine in designing an infrastructure to maximize the economic impact of its expanding funding for science and technology. NIST staff with experience in managing both technology development and technology extension programs will improve Maine’s ability to work with other important resources, such as the State Science and Technology Institute and other federal agencies. This effort will involve both NIST’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership and Advanced Technology Program.
- Businesses in Maine have identified measurement and technical needs as they find ways to apply optical technology—involving the use of light—in measurement and inspection, production process diagnostics, machine vision, and remote sensing. NIST Physics Laboratory researchers who specialize in optics will provide technical assistance to those companies.
- NIST building researchers will team with experts in the University of Maine’s Advanced Engineered Wood Composite Center to explore the commercial and technical feasibility of using wood composite materials in new and existing construction that would enable the state to make the best use of a changing tree stock available in the state.
- NIST will help to plan and fund a study of Maine small businesses’ understanding and use of the Baldrige criteria for performance excellence which serves as a guidebook for organizational improvement. The study will identify opportunities for improving the criteria to encourage their use by small businesses.
- Companies in Maine’s active composite materials industry will compare notes with NIST Materials Science and Engineering Laboratory experts in composites to consider collaborations that could include transfer of NIST-developed technologies, and joint research on measurement test methods for process monitoring and quality control measurements in composites production and new technology areas and markets.
- NIST’s Office of Standards Services will work with Maine to improve the ability of the state’s companies to export to Europe and other global markets. The joint effort will aim to establish mechanisms in Maine for assessing a product’s conformity to foreign government requirements.
- Special training will be provided by NIST for Maine’s weights and measures officials, and NIST will work with the state on a pilot project for comparing measurements of mass which could serve as a model for the rest of the country.
Maine and NIST officials will monitor progress on the new partnership and report annually on the status of this pilot program.