The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will provide up to $7 million in funding for pilot projects to benefit small U.S. manufacturers by enhancing collaboration between its Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). The goal is to test and develop approaches that will engage small manufacturers in the work of the Manufacturing Innovation Institutes in support of technology transfer efforts, collaboration, and sharing of best-practices between the institutes and MEP centers. The funding will allow MEP center personnel to be embedded in the institutes to work with their staffs on each project.
"Expanding the collaboration between the NNMI and MEP is an important step forward in our efforts to strengthen the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers,” said Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. “The Department of Commerce is committed to facilitating sharing of technological innovations and the exchange of best practices between these valuable public-private partnerships to assist American manufacturers.”
NIST anticipates funding around seven pilot project awards at approximately $300,000 to $600,000 per year for each award for up to two years. The anticipated award date is Oct. 1, 2016.
“We’re excited to bring the expertise of our MEP centers and access to our small-manufacturer clients to the institutes. This initiative will help create collaboration opportunities that will allow small manufacturers to tap into the advanced technology focus areas of the institutes,” said Willie E. May, Undersecretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST director.
For more than 25 years, the MEP network has helped small and mid-sized U.S. manufacturers in every state and Puerto Rico create and retain jobs, increase profits and save time and money. Its experts guide manufacturers to develop new products and customers, expand into global markets, adopt new technology, reshore — or bring production back to the United States — and more. The institutes are working to create an effective and sustainable manufacturing research-to-manufacturing infrastructure that will enable industry and academia to solve the “scale-up” challenges that are relevant to U.S. manufacturing.
The pilots will help small manufacturers take advantage of the latest technological innovations and add capabilities to the MEP program by solving new or emerging manufacturing problems. In addition to assisting MEP efforts related to the transfer of technology from the institutes, the proposed pilot projects will also enhance the institutes’ ability to address the technological needs of small and mid-sized U.S. manufacturers.
Current MEP centers are eligible for this funding opportunity and must form a collaboration, teaming arrangement, or other appropriate relationship with one or more of the current institutes to embed MEP center personnel at an institute. NIST encourages project proposals involving participation from multiple MEP centers and multiple institutes, as well as other collaborating entities such as local economic development organizations, universities, community colleges, technology incubator programs and other organizations.