Through 25 years of working with small and mid-size U.S. manufacturers, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers across the country have seen that these companies often need help finding technologies and timely business opportunities, as well as making potential customers aware of their capabilities. To help meet those needs, NIST is offering up to $2.5 million in grants to MEP centers for pilot business and technology matching systems.
"MEP centers provide critical services and resources to manufacturers nationwide. The NIST funding announced today will boost MEP's efforts to help companies connect to the right technologies, customers and suppliers, which will help grow their businesses and strengthen the U.S. manufacturing sector," said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.
NIST expects that the pilot Business-to-Business, or B2B, projects will emphasize people-based networks, backed up by software systems that actively track opportunities and get to know client needs. The systems should include flexible IT platforms, a sustainable business model for network transactions, and robust content management and education efforts.
The B2B Network pilots must include an approach that provides for easy assignment of outcomes such as projects started, connections made, commercialization and sales. It should also provide matchmakers with current, accurate information so they can have relative confidence in the value of opportunities, as well as metrics upon which to evaluate network performance and efficacy.
NIST expects to award up to 10 cooperative agreements, with funding up to $250,000 for up to a two-year performance period.
Full details of the pilot program were posted to Grants.gov on June 20, 2014, under Funding Opportunity Number 2014-NIST-MEP-B2BN-012. Additional information is available on the MEP website. Applications are due to NIST by August 4, 2014.